BAGHDAD (AP) — An angry mob killed a 16-year-old and strung up the corpse by its feet from a traffic pole after the teen shot and killed six people on Thursday, including four anti-government protesters, Iraqi officials said.
Dozens of people pointed their cellphones at the body dangling high above them in a central Baghdad square. Videos circulating on social media showed the young man being beaten and dragged across the street.
The violence underscored the growing fears and suspicions swirling around the eight-week-old protest movement, which engulfed Iraq on October 1 when thousands took to the streets to decry government corruption, poor services and scarcity of jobs.
A string of mysterious acts of bloodshed by unknown groups has put anti-government protesters on edge and eroded their faith in the ability of state security forces to protect them.
Last Friday, 25 protesters were killed when gunmen in pick-up trucks opened fire in Baghdad’s Khilani Square. That same week, mysterious knife attacks targeted over a dozen anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement.
In recent days, abductions and assassinations of high-profile civil activists have stoked paranoia among demonstrators. Protesters largely blame Iran-backed militias for the attacks and see the violence as a campaign to instill fear and weaken their peaceful movement.
The exact circumstances of Thursday’s bloodshed were not clear, with different versions circulated throughout the day. The violence began when the young gunman opened fire in Baghdad’s Wathba Square, killing two shop owners and four protesters.
Security officials said the teen was wanted by police on drug-related charges and was running from security forces at the time.