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Protester shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Iraqi capital

Hundreds of protesters have been killed in Iraq [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 February, 2020

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Unidentified gunmen entered a tent near Baghdad's Tahrir Square and shot a male demonstrator inside with a silenced pistol on Friday.
A demonstrator was shot dead near the Iraqi capital's main protest camp by unidentified attackers using a gun silencer, medics said on Saturday, as police reported a spate of activist abductions.

Late on Friday, unidentified gunmen entered a tent near Baghdad's Tahrir Square and shot a male demonstrator inside with a silenced pistol, a medical source told AFP.

It was unclear why he was targeted.

Another protester who was nearby said he saw a crowd gathering around the tent and yelling before pulling the body out and taking it to a nearby hospital.

The young man was already dead.

Around 550 people have been killed since the anti-government movement erupted in October and around 30,000 more have been wounded, a vast majority of them young demonstrators. 

As the movement has dwindled, some hardcore protesters have opted to remain in the streets but they have been subject to ongoing violence.

Activists have for months complained of a campaign of targeted kidnappings and even assassinations aimed at keeping them from protesting and for which no one has been held accountable.

Between Friday and Saturday, at least three activists were abducted from different neighbourhoods across Baghdad, a police source told AFP.

The Iraqi Human Rights Commission has documented more than 2,700 arrests since protests erupted, with more than 300 people still detained. 

More than 70 Iraqis are categorised as disappeared.

Meanwhile on Friday, thousands of supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protested to support the sanctity of "religious symbols," a day after a march saw unprecedented public criticism of their leader.

"We are one tribe and our leader is Moqtada al-Sadr!" chanted a crowd of men on Friday in Tahrir Square, the main gathering place in Iraq's capital for rival anti-government rallies. 

Sadr, who has a cult-like following across Iraq, first backed the popular protests when they erupted in October but has since split with them over the appointment of a new prime minister. 

The cleric backs Mohammad Allawi, a premier-designate rejected by most demonstrators as too close to the ruling class they have railed against for months. 

Comment: Sadr's attack on Iraq protests brings out his true colours

Over the last two weeks, Sadr has sought to clamp down on the main movement and his followers have attacked rival demonstrators.

In another twist, the cleric published a series of guiding principles for protesters this week, including separation of the sexes and banning drugs or alcohol. 

"We will not stay with arms crossed, silent in the face of insults against religion, morality and country," Sadr said.

The previous day, thousands of women took to the streets to defend their role in the protests movement following Sadr's calls for gender segregation. They also called for an end to the deadly crackdown waged by security forces and armed militias against the largely peaceful protests.

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