Three protesters were shot dead and 12 others were injured in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala near the Iranian consulate on Monday, AFP reported, when Iraqi demonstrators attacked the building.
Burning tires and chanting “Iran out, Kerbala remains free,” the crowd assembled in front of the consulate late on Sunday.
“We came here today to revolt and hold a protest in front of the Iranian consulate. We came to pull down the Iranian flag and lift the Iraqi flag instead,” said one protester in Kerbala who refused to be identified.
Al Arabiya sources confirmed that security forces secured the building and reports say shots were fired in the air to disperse the demonstrators who threw stones and burned tires around the building.
There were no immediate reports of causalities, which comes amid ongoing protests in the capital Baghdad and majority-Shia provinces in the south.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi foreign ministry condemned on Monday the attack on the consulate, affirming its commitment to the inviolability of the diplomatic missions guaranteed by the Vienna Convention, and calling on protesters to avoid endangering its security.
The ministry added that such actions will not affect the "friendly and neighborly relations between the two neighboring countries."
The protests are directed at a postwar political system and a class of elite leaders that Iraqis accuse of pillaging the country’s wealth while the country grows poorer. But protesters have also directed their rage at neighboring Iran and the powerful Iraqi Shia militias tied to it.
The anti-government protests in Karbala, Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq have often turned violent, with security forces opening fire and protesters torching government buildings and headquarters of Iran-backed militias.
More than 250 people have been killed in the security crackdown this month.
Calls for sweeping changes
The protests have grown and demonstrators are now calling for sweeping changes, not just the government’s resignation.
Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square and across southern Iraq in recent days, calling for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion. Protesters have also taken over a large tower in the square that was abandoned after it was damaged in the war.
Thousands of students have skipped classes to take part in the street rallies, blaming the political elite for widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on Sunday called on anti-government protesters to reopen roads saying “it’s time for life to return to normal,” after a month of massive rallies demanding wide-ranging political change.