BAGHDAD- Security forces opened fire on protesters in Baghdad and southern Iraq, killing at least seven people and wounding dozens of others, police and medical sources said on Sunday, the latest violence in weeks of unrest in Baghdad and some southern cities.
In Nassiriya, security forces used live ammunition and tear gas canisters to disperse protesters who had gathered overnight on three bridges.
More than 50 others were wounded, mainly by live bullets and tear gas canisters, in clashes in the city, they added.
Two people were killed and over 70 wounded when security forces used live fire to disperse protesters near the country's main Gulf port of Umm Qasr near Basra, police and medical sources said.
The protesters had gathered to demand security forces open roads around the port town. Authorities have blocked the roads to try to prevent protesters from reaching the port's entrance.
Umm Qasr is Iraq's largest commodities port, taking in grain, vegetable oils and sugar shipments that feed a country largely dependent on imported food.
In Baghdad, one protester was killed during overnight demonstrations in al-Rasheed street in the city centre when police used live fire to disperse protesters, police and medical sources said.
Protests flared anew on Sunday on the street when security forces used live fire and tear gas to prevent protesters from trying to reach the road leading to the central bank. At least 15 protesters were wounded, police and medical sources said.
At least 330 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq in early October, the largest demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and serving foreign powers while many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.
Medical authorities evacuated infants and children from a hospital in central Nassiriya overnight after tear gas spread inside hospital courtyards, two hospital sources said. Protests continued in the city on Sunday, with some government offices set on fire, sources said.
In Basra, hundreds of protesters burned tyres and blocked some roads, preventing government employees from reaching offices, police said.
Protesters set fire to a police vehicle in the city centre. At least 35 people were wounded by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters shot by security forces, said Reuters reporter.
Security forces also wounded at least 24 people in the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala overnight after opening fire on demonstrators to prevent them from reaching the local government headquarters, medical and security sources said.
(Reporting by Aref Mohammed Writing by Ahmed Rasheed Editing by Mark Potter, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Frances Kerry) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +964-7901-947-131; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))