An overnight curfew has been declared in Iraq’s capital Baghdad following days of anti-government protests mostly in the Shia-dominated south of the country.
State TV cited the Baghdad operations commander as giving the order, which it said was effective “until further notice” between midnight and 6am.
Scores have died in the demonstrations over what the activists see as corruption, a lack of economic growth and inefficient public services.
At least 72 protesters have been killed since the protests resumed on Friday, after an earlier wave of demonstrations this month led to the deaths of 149 people.
On Monday, at least two anti-government protesters were killed and 105 were wounded in clashes with security forces in Baghdad.
The forces fired tear gas and stun grenades to keep protesters from crossing a main bridge leading to the Green Zone, which is home to government offices and embassies.
Thousands of students at several universities and secondary schools in Baghdad and across the south skipped classes to join the mass protests.
This was despite the government ordering the education institutions to operate normally.
In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, which is the centre of the protests, demonstrators chanted: “It’s a student revolution, no to the government, no to parties!”
The rallies have also involved young, unemployed men who are demanding jobs and better services.
Protesters camped out in the central roundabout and were brought food by volunteers, as they try to echo the revolutionary atmosphere of similar rallies held across the region during and after the 2011 Arab Spring.
Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to announce early parliamentary elections overseen by the United Nations and without the participation of existing political parties.
Mr Sadr’s bloc, which came first in a 2018 election and helped bring Mr Abdul Mahdi’s fragile coalition government to power, said it would oppose the government until the demands of the protesters were met.
A spokesman for Mr Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the biggest challenge of his premiership since he became PM a year ago, said anyone disrupting work or school days would be punished.
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