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Iraq issues curfews, cuts Internet amid anti-government protests

The death toll from protests in the nation rose to nine as seven people were killed on Wednesday.

By
Darryl Coote
Thousands of Iraqis protests in Baghdad over corruption, unemployment, the rising cost of living and lack of services. Photo by Murtaja Lateef/EPA-EFE
Thousands of Iraqis protests in Baghdad over corruption, unemployment, the rising cost of living and lack of services. Photo by Murtaja Lateef/EPA-EFE

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Iraqi authorities issued curfews and blocked Internet access after a second day of anti-government protests erupted throughout the nation.

At least seven people were killed Wednesday and dozens more were injured after security forces opened fire with live rounds and tear gas on protesters demanding jobs, economic reform, public services and an end to government corruption.

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On Tuesday, at least two people were killed and over 200 people were injured during the first day of protests.

Authorities ordered curfews on Wednesday in the capital of Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriyah as protests escalated.

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The curfews were announced following an emergency meeting between Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and members of the national security council.

"The Council stressed that appropriate measures should be taken to protect citizens and public and private properties," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Authorities also cut Internet access for most of Iraq with less than 70 percent connectivity registered in Bahgdad, according to Netblocks, a civil society group that supports digital inclusivity.

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Social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp were first targeted before all Internet was cut, it said.

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"Technical measurements show that each of the services have been intentionally restricted by leading Iraqi network operations ... in a manner consistent with previous incidents of censorship in the country," Netblocks said in a post.

As the violence escalated Wednesday, U.N. secretary-general for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, called for calm while showing her support for the protesters, stating their demands are "legitimate."

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She urged authorities to exercise restraint and to allow them the freedom to "freely speak their minds."

"The ability to preserve the right to protest is a sign of political and democratic maturity," she said in a statement published on Twitter. "Moreover, the use of force only fuels the anger, de-escalation is urgently needed."

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