Iraqi security forces opened fire on Wednesday to disperse protesters gathered on a bridge in central Baghdad, shooting live bullets in the air, a Reuters witness said. There appeared to be no casualties.
Protesters had blocked the Shuhada bridge since Tuesday afternoon as part of efforts to bring the country to a standstill, with thousands continuing to partake in anti-government demonstrations in the capital and southern provinces.
Security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters in the 24 hours to late Tuesday, dispensing with weeks of relative restraint in favour of trying to stamp out dissent.
In the southern oil-rich province of Basra, security forces forcibly dispersed a sit-in overnight but there were no deaths reported, security sources said. Protesters had camped out in front the provincial government building.
The U.S embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday condemned the deadly violence against unarmed demonstrators, and urged Iraq's leaders to engage urgently with the thousands who have been protesting.
"We deplore the killing and kidnapping (of) unarmed protesters, threats to freedom of expression, and the cycle of violence taking place. Iraqis must be free to make their own choices about the future of the nation," it said in a statement.