Third Day of Protest across Iraq, 44 people killed,hundreds injured

At least 44 people have been killed across Iraq as widespread anti-government protests enter the third day, with hundreds more injured.
An indefinite curfew has been imposed in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and several southern cities after the Iraqi prime minister convened his national security council for an emergency meeting.
"All vehicles and individuals are totally forbidden to move in Baghdad as of 5am today, Thursday, and until further notice," Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a statement.
Travellers to and from Baghdad airport, ambulances, government employees in hospitals, electricity and water departments, and religious pilgrims are exempt from the curfew, the statement said.
Demonstrations over similar issues engulfed the southern city of Basra last summer and effectively ended previous premier Haider al-Abadi's chances of a second term.
Abdul Mahdi now faces a similar challenge just weeks before his government marks a full year in power.

'Frustrated, angry youth'

Early Thursday, some cars and civilians were seen in the capital's streets. Speaking two kilometres from Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests, Al Jazeera's Imran Khan said there was an"eerie quiet over Baghdad" but that he could hear "sporadic gunfire towards Tahrir Square".
"What we are hearing from protesters themselves is that come 3 pm local time (1200  GMT) they will try and push towards Tahrir Square," Khan said. "So the scene is being set between the protesters and the Iraqi security forces."
Residents are wary that more protests could erupt after powerful Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr called for "a general strike".
Al-Sadr's political bloc, Saeroon, which came first in last May's parliamentary elections, is part of the ruling coalition.
The demonstrations have descended into violence as security forces responded to protesters by firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds.
"There was no spark for these protests," Khan said. After a small protest was quickly dispersed by security forces on Tuesday, a social media call went out which resulted in thousands of people taking to the streets, he added.
The protesters are mostly "angy young people who are not aligned to any political or religious party", Khan said.
"They are simply very frustrated at the fact that they don't have jobs," he said.
Meanwhile, two border crossings to Iraq - including one widely used by Iranian pilgrims - have been closed because of unrest in Iraq, Iranian border guards said.
According to Iran's semi-official news agency Mehr, Iranian border guards commander General Qasem Rezaei said the Khosravi and Chazabeh crossings had been closed since late Wednesday, but other crossings were open ahead of an annual Shia Muslim pilgrimage in Iraq.

Defying curfew

On Thursday morning, riot police fired into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters who had gathered at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad - in defiance of the curfew - to protest against high unemployment.
"We slept here so the police don't take the place," one demonstrator told AFP news agency before being pushed back by the police.
Since erupting in Baghdad on Tuesday, the protests have spread to other cities in the country's south, posing a challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's one-year-old government.
Curfews were also imposed in the holy city of Najaf on Wednesday after security forces fired on protesters who are demanding an end to rampant power cuts, water shortages and state corruption.
Anger over staggering rates of youth unemployment, which is around 25 percent or double the adult rate according to the World Bank, appears to have set off the latest round of demonstrations.
"We want jobs and better public services. We've been demanding them for years and the government has never responded," said Abdallah Walid, a 27-year-old protester.
The southern city of Nasriya, which has seen so far the deadliest protests with a total of eight protesters and one police officer killed, has also been placed under curfew. 
Another protester was shot dead on Thursday in the province of Dhi Qar, regional health chief Abdulhussein al-Jaberi said. 
In the city of Amarah, medics and security forces have confirmed the killing of four protesters on Thursday, bringing the death toll over the past three days to 20.
More than 400 others have been wounded in the nationwide protests.

Green Zone explosion

The tension has been exacerbated by a near-total internet shutdown, the closure of government offices and at least one overnight explosion that hit the Green Zone, where some ministries and embassies are located.
A security source inside the area told AFP there were two blasts, likely caused by indirect fire a little over a week after two rockets hit near the US embassy there.
The apparent attack came hours after security forces sealed off the Green Zone "until further notice", fearing angry protesters would swarm state buildings or foreign missions.
The Green Zone had been inaccessible for most Iraqis since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but had reopened to the public in June.
It has often been the focal point for public anger, including in 2016 when al-Sadr's supporters stormed it and paralysed state institutions.



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South Punjab News : Third Day of Protest across Iraq, 44 people killed,hundreds injured
Third Day of Protest across Iraq, 44 people killed,hundreds injured
"All vehicles and individuals are totally forbidden to move in Baghdad as of 5am today, Thursday, and until further notice," Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a statement.
South Punjab News
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