The security forces in Iraq and the civilians clashed on Sunday during protests in Baghdad and other cities. The forces fired teargas and live bullets as the clashes were renewed in the cities following the demand for the removal of the corrupt elite government.
The demonstrators are also protesting for the end of foreign interference in domestic politics. The protesters wanted lesser interference especially by Iran which has come to dominate state matters and institutions since Saddam Hussein was removed from power in 2003 by the US-led coalition.
The populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr asked the protestors to demonstrate in front of the US embassy in Baghdad on Sunday which led to a large march on Friday in which thousands protested against the US military presence in the country.
Protesters threw petrol bombs and stones during the clash
Protesters on Sunday threw petrol bombs and stones at security forces which responded by firing tear gas canisters and live rounds into the air.
The authorities' latest attempt to push back protesters and restore order came after Sadr, who has millions of supporters in Baghdad and the south, said on Saturday he would end his involvement in anti-government unrest.
"We protest because we have a cause, I don't think Moqtada Sadr or any other politician will change our mind," said a protester in Baghdad who declined to give his name.
Sadr's supporters had bolstered the protesters and sometimes helped shield them from attacks by security forces and unidentified gunmen, but began withdrawing from sit-in camps on Saturday following his announcement.
Security forces then removed concrete barriers near Baghdad's Tahrir Square, where demonstrators have camped out for months, and across at least one main bridge over the Tigris River.
"I don't go to protests often but I came out today because of what they did yesterday, I want to express my solidarity with my brothers in Tahrir," said Hussain Ali, a student.
Protesters in the capital were coughing and washing their faces and eyes to rid themselves of the effects of the gas while Iraqi Red Cross workers provided first aid, as the site was inaccessible to ambulances, a Reuters reporter said.
At least 14 protesters were injured in the clashes in the capital, security and medical sources said.
Tuk-tuks evacuated wounded protesters in clouds of tear gas and black smoke from burning tires.
Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of university students gathered in Tahrir square, the main protest camp, chanting slogans against the US and Iran.
UNREST IN THE SOUTH
Clashes with security forces in the southern city of Nassiriya left at least 17 protesters wounded, four of them by live bullets, police and medical sources said.
Protesters set fire to two security vehicles in the city centre and as hundreds of other demonstrators controlled the key bridges in the city, a Reuters witness said.
In the southern city of Basra, more than 2000 students from different universities pooled into the protest camp, another Reuters witness said.
Protests also continued in the cities of Kerbala, Najaf, and Diwaniya in defiance to attempts by security forces to end their months-long sit-in, police sources and Reuters witnesses said.
The unrest resumed last week after a lull of several weeks, following US airstrikes that killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia commander.
The killing of Soleimani, to which Iran responded by ballistic missile attacks on two Iraqi military bases, has revived tensions in Iraq's domestic politics and delayed the formation of a new government.
(With inputs from agency)