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Two killed in Iraq clashes after activist given prison term

NASIRIYAH, IRAQ (AFP) – Two protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah were killed on Wednesday in clashes with security forces at a rally after an activist was handed a jail term,  authorities said.

Haidar al-Zaidi, 20, was sentenced to three years over a tweet of disputed origin deemed insulting to a pro-Iran ex-paramilitary force, according to court documents seen by AFP on Wednesday. The verdict, which Zaidi can appeal, has sparked criticism on social media.

And on the streets on Nasiriyah – the regional capital of Dhi Qar province and a flashpoint of anti-government protests – hundreds gathered on Wednesday evening for a second day in a row.

The protesters deplored the jail term and also demanded compensation for demonstrators wounded by security forces in late 2019, an AFP correspondent said.

Riot police confronted the crowd in the central Habboubi Square with “brutal” force and “fired live ammunition”, said demonstrator Mohammed al-Iraqi, who spoke to AFP at a morgue where dozens of relatives and friends of the two fatalities gathered.

Dhi Qar provincial Health Ministry spokesman Hussein Riyad told AFP, “two protesters were shot dead” in the clashes and 21 people were wounded, including five by gunfire.

Riyad said a police officer was among those wounded.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered a security delegation be sent to the province “to investigate the casualties among the demonstrators”.

Mourners accompany the casket of one of the two protesters killed in clashes with security forces, in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. PHOTO: AFP

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