Police officer killed during anti-government protests in Iraq capital

A policeman has been killed during anti-government protests in the Iraqi capital, with seven other police officers injured along with dozens of protesters.

Demonstrators loyal to influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al Sadr gathered in Baghdad demanding an overhaul of the commission overseeing the local elections schedule this year.

Shots rang out in the centre of the city as security forces used live fire and tear gas to disperse the crowds. Ambulances rushed away protesters suffering from breathing difficulties.

Hospital officials said the policeman died of a gunshot wound.

While at times the crowds advanced towards Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone, by afternoon they began to disperse after a statement from Mr al Sadr's office called on his followers to refrain from trying to enter the compound.

He accused the elections commission of being corrupt and called for its members to be changed, a statement from his office said.

"We will not give in to threats," said the head of the electoral commission, Serbat Mustafa, in an interview with a local Iraqi television channel.

Mr Mustafa said he would not offer his resignation and accused Mr al Sadr of using the commission as a political "scapegoat".

He has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, and last year protests that included many of his followers breached the highly fortified Green Zone twice.

Mr al Abadi has said that he respects the rights of all Iraqis to peacefully demonstrate but called on the protesters to obey the law and respect public and private property.

The Green Zone is home to most of Iraq's foreign embassies and the seats of Iraq's government.

AP


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