Iraq protests death toll nears 100: Rights panel

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The death toll from mass protests in Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq neared 100 on Saturday as the unrest entered its fifth day, a rights panel said.

Five people were killed in Saturday's clashes between protesters and police in Baghdad, police and medical sources told Reuters.

More than 3,000 people have also been injured since the protests against chronic unemployment, poor public services, and widespread corruption erupted in the capital on Tuesday, the parliament’s human rights commission said.

A total of 540 demonstrators have been arrested, of whom nearly 200 remain in custody, the panel added.

The Iraqi government lifted the daytime curfew in Baghdad on Saturday, but access to roads leading to major squares remained blocked for fear of further deadly protests, AFP correspondents reported.

Iraqi security forces Friday opened fire on dozens of protesters gathering in Baghdad for a fourth day of demonstrations against corruption, unemployment, and poor public services, an AFP correspondent reported.

Tensions have been exacerbated by a near-total internet blackout as the authorities seek to prevent protesters communicating with each other or posting footage of the chaotic demonstrations.

The demonstrations are the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who has imposed curfews in Baghdad and other cities to try to stop the protests gathering steam.

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