The US would investigate allegations of its weapons being used inappropriately in Iraq, the Pentagon said Thursday amid a mounting death toll among demonstrators, Anadolu reports.
“We have very stringent use requirements, end-user requirements for those we provide military weapons to for sales,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters. “And we would investigate any allegation that the weapons are being used inappropriately, not the manner in which they were intended.”
At least four protesters were killed by security forces gunfire, and dozens more injured by live ammunition Thursday in Baghdad.
In all, nearly 500 people have been killed in successive waves of anti-government protests in Iraq that began in October. Thousands more have been injured.
Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper sought assurances from Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali al-Hakim and Defense Minister Erfan al-Hiyali “that the peaceful protests would be observed peacefully and be able to continue.”
“But at the same time we are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” he added.
Popular anger has been simmering in Iraq in recent years due to rising unemployment and rampant corruption. Iraqis have limited access to basic services such as electricity and clean water.
According to World Bank figures, youth unemployment is around 25%. Iraq ranks as the 12th most-corrupt country in the world, according to several transparency organizations.