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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Protester shot near HQ of Iranian-backed militia in south Iraq

Protests, until now largely centred in the south, began in Baghdad where demonstrators surrounded the diplomatic Green Zone 

epa06901528 Iraqi protesters chant slogans during a demonstration at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 20 July 2018. According to media reports dozens of protesters were injured in the clashes that followed the demonstration by thousands of Iraqis over unemployment, the rising cost of living and lack of services in Baghdad, as the Iraqi government had deployed a significant amount of military and police forces in various provinces in southern Iraq and areas in Baghdad. EPA/AHMED JALIL
epa06901528 Iraqi protesters chant slogans during a demonstration at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 20 July 2018. According to media reports dozens of protesters were injured in the clashes that followed the demonstration by thousands of Iraqis over unemployment, the rising cost of living and lack of services in Baghdad, as the Iraqi government had deployed a significant amount of military and police forces in various provinces in southern Iraq and areas in Baghdad. EPA/AHMED JALIL

A man was killed on Friday in a new day of protests in Iraq as authorities struggle to contain social unrest that has reached the capital Baghdad.

The latest death brings the number of people killed in protests to nine as Iraqis hit out against social and economic woes.

The man killed was aged about 20 and was shot in the southern city of Diwaniyah, a medical source said, as hundreds of people gathered outside the local headquarters of an armed group.

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Iraq protests:

The leaderless protests of southern Iraq see years of neglect boil over

Iraqis protest at entrance to Zubair oilfield

Iraq protests spread, fuelled by anger and hopelessness

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Shots were fired by a guard from the powerful Iranian-backed Badr organisation, the source added, asking not to be named.

The unrest erupted in Basra province on July 8 when security forces opened fire, killing one person as protesters demanded jobs and basic services.

Iraqi protesters wave national flags in front of the provincial council building during a demonstration demanding better public services and jobs, in Basra, 340 miles (550 km) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 20, 2018. Some thousands have once again taken to the streets in the capital and the southern city of Basra demanding better public services and jobs. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
Iraqi protesters wave national flags in front of the provincial council building during a demonstration demanding better public services and jobs, in Basra. AP

Others killed during this month's protests were shot by unknown assailants.

The Iraqi government has swiftly denounced "vandals" it accuses of infiltrating the protests.

Earlier this week, authorities said more than 260 security personnel had been wounded in ongoing clashes. Among the numerous security forces deployed to contain the demonstrations are battle-hardened officers from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service who took a lead role in liberating Mosul from ISIS.

As southern Iraqis continued to rally against corruption, unemployment, high prices, power cuts and a lack of clean water, demonstrators also rallied in the capital Baghdad on Friday.

Demonstrators chanted "the people demand the downfall of the regime", a popular slogan used throughout the 2011 Arab spring rallies.

"We believed that these politicians would improve the situation in the country, but they aren't doing anything," said Yahya Hasnawi, 50, one of the thousands of protesters in Baghdad.

The crowds were dispersed by water cannon and tear gas as they headed towards the fortified Green Zone, a high-security area of Baghdad where the government is headquartered.

"We don't have electricity, nor work, the water is frequently cut for hours, the same with the internet," said 19-year-old Mortada Mohammed, in Baghdad's Tahrir Square.

Social media has been unavailable for nearly a week and the internet was cut for two days from Saturday, which authorities claimed was due to maintenance work.

Protests were held across the south on Friday, the Muslim day of rest when traditionally demonstrations are organised after weekly prayers, and a number of political party offices and public buildings were torched.

In oil-rich Basra, people shouted slogans against the authorities as thousands gathered peacefully outside government headquarters.

Shouting "no to corruption", hundreds of people rallied in Nasiriyah, 160 kilometres northwest of Basra, chanting the anti-graft message which has characterised nearly two weeks of protests.

epa06901474 Iraqi riot forces clash with Iraqi protesters during a demonstration at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 20 July 2018. According to media reports dozens of protesters were injured in the clashes that followed the demonstration by thousands of Iraqis over unemployment, the rising cost of living and lack of services in Baghdad, as the Iraqi government had deployed a significant amount of military and police forces in various provinces in southern Iraq and areas in Baghdad. EPA/AHMED JALIL
Iraqi riot forces clash with Iraqi protesters during a demonstration at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 20 July 2018 EPA

Demonstrators also surrounded the home of Nasiriyah's governor where security forces responded with tear gas.

Protesters called for the electricity minister to be sacked, as the majority of Iraqi homes continue to be struck by hours-long cuts with temperatures this month hitting 50 degrees Celsius.

Earlier on Friday, the electricity ministry announced neighbouring Kuwait would supply 30,000 cubic metres of diesel to boost Iraq's electricity supply, the first in a series of such deliveries expected over coming days. There are concerns in Kuwait, close to the southern Basra province, that if the protests turn violent a wave of refugees could head towards their border.

The government of Kuwait has also expressed readiness to assist in Iraqi water projects including desalination.

Saudi Arabia has also said it could step in to help Iraqis struggling power sector and comes as the kingdom is meaning fences with Iraq. Last year, Mr Hadi visited King Salman and there are reports Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman will visit Baghdad soon. A raft of other diplomatic and economic developments have also taken place.

As well as the years of neglect in the power sector of Iraq, Iran recently halted energy supplies due to concern in Tehran that US sanctions that will be reapplied after Washington tore up the 2015 nuclear agreement could lead to a dispute over payments with Baghdad.

Iraqis have held weekly anti-graft protests in the capital since 2015, organised by supporters of an alliance between nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and communists.

Sadr topped the polls in May elections but a new government has yet to be formed, as a partial recount of the parliamentary vote has been ordered following fraud allegations.

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