Iraq protesters turn out in defiance after Baghdad attack

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Iraqi protesters defiantly turned out on Saturday across the country’s south and in the capital, where more than a dozen people were killed in an overnight attack by unidentified gunmen.

The assailants briefly ousted demonstrators from a building they had occupied for weeks in Baghdad, despite the presence of security forces nearby who did not intervene.

Iraqi officials raised Friday’s death toll to 50 protesters killed and over 130 wounded, after a bloody night of attacks by unknown gunmen that targeted anti-government demonstrators in the capital city.

The health and security officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The European Union, France, and Britain on Saturday condemned the overnight attack by unidentified gunmen that left more than a dozen people dead.

The attack was among the deadliest since Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets calling for sweeping political reforms and the end of Iran’s influence in Iraqi affairs. Security forces regularly use live rounds and tear gas to disperse the demonstrations, leading to heavy casualties.

The gunfire continued until the early hours of Saturday morning. The assailants first unleashed the deadly assault on Baghdad’s Khilani Square and Sinak Bridge, driving through the areas that are the epicenter of the popular uprising.

The attack was the first time gunmen that appeared to be not linked with Iraqi security forces opened fire on the protesters.

Anti-government activists have sought to blame supporters of Iran-backed Iraqi militias, which have staged similar attacks against protester sit-ins in the capital and the country’s southern cities.

Iraqi security forces were deployed to streets leading to the square by the early morning.