Iraq officials: 3 dead in south amid ongoing violence


Three simultaneous explosions rocked Baghdad late Tuesday, killing five people and wounding more than a dozen, Iraqi officials said, in the first apparent co-ordinated attack since anti-government protests erupted almost two months ago.

The attack follows a similar one on the Iranian consulate in the city of Karbala on November 4 and comes amid almost two months of anti-government protests over high unemployment, corruption and poor government services in this oil-rich nation.

It comes as protesters shouted "Victory to Iraq!" and "Iran out!", setting fire to the Iranian consulate in the holy Shia city.

Authorities set up "crisis cells" in several provinces to try to restore order, a military statement said on Thursday.

But by the afternoon, after the protesters' deaths, the premier had already sacked one commander, General Jamil Shummary.

In central Baghdad, where at least one protester was killed Tuesday, young demonstrators donned helmets and medical masks to again face off with security forces who were unleashing tear gas on them.

Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the torching of the consulate, saying it was perpetrated by "people outside of the genuine protesters", in a statement, adding that the objective had been to harm bilateral relations between the countries. Authorities are not releasing updated or precise figures.

In Dhi Qar, arteries linking key cities and the three oil fields of Garraf, Nasiriyah and Subba were shut.

"We're staying until the regime falls and our demands are met!" they chanted.

The same man said local residents, angered by the violence, threw stones at the security forces and set fire to the local headquarters of the Federal Police Emergency Response.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director, said: 'The scenes from Nasiriyah this morning more closely resemble a war zone than city streets and bridges.

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The highest toll was in the flashpoint southern city of Nasiriyah, where 25 people were killed when security forces used "excessive force" to break up rallies, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

Tall flames and thick clouds of smoke rose from the entrance of the consulate in the southern city, AFP's correspondent there said.

They also broke into the building itself, which had apparently been evacuated by its Iranian staff.

Protesters previously attacked the Iranian consulate in Karbala earlier this month, scaling concrete barriers running the building.

On Thursday, Iraqi state news agency quoted the foreign ministry as condemning the attack on the diplomatic facility.

Another four protesters were shot dead in the capital.

In the Shiite holy city of Karbala on Tuesday, one person was killed as protests escalated into chaotic "clashes" with security forces, a medical source told AFP.

Iraq's Najaf Operations Command announced a curfew but did not not specift how long it would continue. Now, some are calling for the Iraqi government to step down and parliament to be dissolved.

Protesters kept up their sit-ins in Kut, Amara and Hilla, all south of the capital, despite a notably larger security presence.

The bombings took place far from Baghdad's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of weeks of anti-government protests that have posed the biggest security challenge to Iraq since the defeat of ISIS.

Many protesters blame neighboring Iran for interfering in Iraq's internal affairs and organizing much of the country's corruption.