Iraqi forces kill six protesters in southern city of Basra

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Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition on hundreds of protesters in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, killing six people and wounding 19.

Twenty-two members of the security forces were also wounded, some by a hand grenade, the sources said, in some of the worst unrest reported during months of protests sweeping the long neglected south, heartland of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority.

The government has also imposed a curfew in the city.

Two activists told The Associated Press that security forces fired bullets and tear gas on protesters demanding better services and jobs on Monday, killing 26-year-old Mekki Yasser.

Basra protests Iraq. (AP)
Basra protests Iraq. (AP)

A funeral procession for Yasser was held Tuesday in front of the provincial government building, where protesters threw stones, prompting security forces to fire tear gas at first, then to open fire, killing another six protesters.

The activists spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety. They said a fire was raging on the 6th floor of the provincial government building after protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails inside. A crowd of protesters tried to storm the building.

Iraqi officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mourners carry the Iraqi flag-draped coffin of Mekki Yasser, Basra, Iraq. (AP)
Mourners carry the Iraqi flag-draped coffin of Mekki Yasser, Basra, Iraq. (AP)

Several protesters have also been demanding that the border with Iran be closed, and according to social media users, protesters have also been demonstrating against corrupt Iran-linked government officials.

A video being circulated on social media also purports to show protesters surrounding a government building after it was set on fire.

Iraqis in the south have been protesting against unemployment and poor public services since July. The protests have often turned violent, with protesters attacking government offices and security forces.

Water shortages along with a lingering electricity crisis in the oil-rich region have contributed to protesters' rage, fueling the demonstrations in Basra.

Iraq's government has scrambled to meet the growing demands for public services and jobs, but has been hindered by years of endemic corruption and a financial crisis fueled by diminished oil revenues and the costly war against the Islamic State group.

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