Amid heightened violence during protests, Iraqi PM promises new electoral reform

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Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said on Saturday that the government and judiciary will continue to investigate deaths and that all detainees will be released, promising a new electoral reform "in the coming few days."

This comes after ten people were killed in Iraq’s southern city of Basra during overnight protests where security forces used live gunfire to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who tried to force their way into the local government headquarters, medical sources told Al Arabiya on Saturday.

The sources added that about 180 people suffered injuries as protesters continue to gather around the government building.

Abdul Mahdi stated that all those who kidnap, arrest or assault outside of the legal framework will face trial.

“The protests have helped and will help pressure political groups, the government ... to reform and accept change. However continuing protests must allow for a return to normal life, which will lead to legitimate demands being met,” he said.

In a nod to protesters demands, he acknowledged that political parties had made “many mistakes” in the past 16 years.

According to Iraqi state TV, masked gunmen had attacked protesters in Basra on Thursday night, killing five people and injuring another 120.

In Baghdad, Al Arabiya sources said that clashes erupted between hundreds of demonstrators and riot police in al-Rashid Street, where security forces fired tear gas and sound bombs.

The sources added that protesters tried to reach Shuhada Bridge again, but security forces continued to block them for the third day in a row.

More than 250 people have been killed since the unrest erupted Oct. 1.

Demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts despite Iraq's vast oil reserves.

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