At least two demonstrators were killed and some 40 others wounded Friday in a clash with riot police in Baghdad as demonstrations continued in Iraq over lack of jobs and public services, a security official said.
The clash erupted in the morning when dozens of protesters tried to cross a security wall in Rasheed Street in downtown Baghdad, which houses the Central Bank of Iraq and the main headquarters of the government-owned banks of al-Rafidain and al-Rasheed, an Interior Ministry official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The security forces used smoke and tear gas canisters and fired bullets in the air to disperse the demonstrators, who were trying to reach the al-Shuhadaa Bridge through al-Rasheed Street, which is closed by security forces with concrete blocks, the official added.
The clash resulted in the killing of at least two protesters, while 40 others were wounded or suffocated by the smoke and the tear gas, the official said, adding that several security members were also wounded.
Moreover, sporadic clashes continued during the day as more demonstrators arrived to take part in the clashes, the official added.
Meanwhile, the Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who heads the Shiite religious leadership in Iraq, called on the political parties to speed up the reform measures as the only way to end the anti-government protests that erupted in early October.
"We affirm the importance of accelerating the passing of the electoral law and the electoral commission, because they are paving the way for the resolution of the country's big crisis," al-Sistani said in his weekly Friday prayer, delivered by a representative in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
Mass demonstrations have continued in capital Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since early October, demanding comprehensive reform, accountability for corruption, improvement of public services and job opportunities.