Protesters killed in Iraq as HRW slams attacks on medics

A human rights group has accused Iraq’s police and members of the military of attacking medical workers for treating demonstrators, as security forces killed at least three more protesters in the capital Baghdad on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday that security forces had fired on medical workers, tents, and ambulances with tear gas and live ammunition, punishing them for treating protesters.

“Medics have become another victim of the state’s excessive force. These attacks show an utter disregard for the overriding need to ensure medical workers can do their essential job,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

On Thursday, security forces used live rounds, rubber bullets and fired tear gas canisters in a bid to disperse hundreds of protesters gathered near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the Reuters News Agency reported.

One protester died immediately after a tear gas canister hit his head and another lost his life in hospital from wounds from a stun bomb fired by security forces, reports said on Thursday, adding that at least 50 people were wounded in the latest clashes in the capital.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Baghdad, said the protesters were killed between 7am and 8am local time (04:00-05:00 GMT).

At least half of the wounded protesters had injuries sustained from live ammunition, police and medical sources told Reuters.

Since early October, mass protests have raged across the country against the ruling class, calling for the overhaul of a quota-based system in the world’s second-largest oil producer.

The head of the Iraqi Parliament’s human rights commission told Al Jazeera earlier this week that 319 people had died since October 1 with more than 15,000 wounded during the protests. Most of the casualties were anti-government protesters, but security officers also died in the violence.

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