At least 100 people have been killed since anti-government protests erupted across Iraq earlier this week, according to the country’s health ministry, reports Anadolu Agency.
More than 2,500 people have also been injured since the protests began on October 1 in Baghdad and the country’s southern provinces, said an official from the ministry who declined to be named.
Members of the security forces were among the dead, the official said, without providing an exact figure.
The death toll may rise further as there are protesters who are seriously injured and people are reluctant to transport them to the hospital as they fear being arrested, the official said.
There are also shortages of medical supplies and units of blood, according to hospital sources.
Earlier Friday, angry protesters stormed the provincial council in Shia-dominated Al-Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, according to a police officer.
“Hundreds of demonstrators stormed the provincial council’s building after violent clashes with security forces,” Police Lieutenant Jassim al-Tamimi told Anadolu Agency.
Dozens of demonstrators were wounded by gunfire and police were injured by stones in the clashes.
Protesters have been demanding that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resign as well as improvements in living conditions and an end to corruption.
Security forces have reportedly opened fire on protesters to disperse them, causing mass casualties.
The prime minister ordered a government-enforced curfew to be lifted in Baghdad and some other southern cities as of 5 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) Saturday, state media reported.
In a written statement, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for early elections, demanding that Mahdi resign.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement called for “dialogue between the government and the demonstrators as an immediate step towards de-escalation and reiterates that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights that must be respected.”
Guterres also appealed to all actors to “exercise utmost restraint and refrain from violence.”