Iraqi security forces killed 149 protesters, most by shots to head and chest, new report shows

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An Iraqi government committee established to investigate the increasing unrest in Iraq disclosed that 149 civilians were killed because security forces used excessive force and live fire to quell protests, Reuters reported.

According to the report, more than 70% of civilians were killed by shots to the head or chest. Senior commanders are to blame, the report stated. The report also blames the prime minister and other top officials, saying there had been no order to shoot.

Iraq experienced a wave of protests since October 1 over high unemployment, poor public services and corruption, prompting a violent security crackdown. Protesters blame graft and infighting among political leaders for failing to improve their lives even in peacetime, two years after Islamic State was declared defeated in Iraq.

“The committee found that officers and commanders lost control over their forces during the protests (and this) caused chaos,” the panel said in its report. “There were no official orders from the supreme authorities to security forces to open fire toward protesters or use live ammunition at all.”

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi established the committee to look into the bloodshed, and he has also promised a cabinet reshuffle and reforms including steps to fight graft, and provide government jobs and land to university graduates.

But critics said his gestures were vague and appear unlikely to defuse public anger over rampant corruption, Reuters reported.

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The report said 149 civilians and eight members of the security forces were killed in a week of disturbances ending on Oct. 7, and that it found evidence of sniper fire targeting protesters from inside a building in central Baghdad.

“The committee found during its field investigation shells from a sniper rifle inside an abandoned building near a petrol station in central Baghdad,” the report said.

The current violence has turned out to be the worst in Iraq since 2017, has posed the biggest challenge to Abdul Mahdi since he took office a year ago.

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