Up to six people were killed and some 70 others wounded on Wednesday in clashes between the demonstrators and followers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, security and medical sources said.
The clashes erupted when members of the Peace Companies militia stormed the al-Sadrain Square in Najaf, some 160 km south of the capital Baghdad, and set fire to the sit-in tents, prompting the protesters to clash with the attackers, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
During the chaos, unidentified militants fired bullets and caused casualties from both sides, mostly among the demonstrators, the source said.
Ambulances transported six bodies of demonstrators killed in the clashes, another source from the Najaf Health Department, told Xinhua.
Up to 74 wounded people were sent to the city's hospitals, the source said, also on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Safaa al-Tamimi, a military spokesman for the Peace Companies, told the official Iraqi News Agency that unknown groups bombed the al-Sadrain Square and attacked both demonstrators and the militia's members.
"There are parties that are working to stir sedition. We have videos documenting the attack and they were all handed over to the security forces," al-Tamimi said.
Mass anti-government demonstrations have been continuing in Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since October of 2019, demanding comprehensive reform, fight against corruption, better public services and more jobs.