The number of deaths in an attack on a key protest site in the Iraqi capital Baghdad has risen to at least 16, witnesses said on Saturday, a day after the incident.
Around 100 others were injured in the shooting, which saw unknown gunmen fire live bullets at anti-government protesters from inside four cars in al-Khilani Square in central Baghdad, the witnesses told dpa.
The Interior Ministry said four civilians were killed and 80 others injured in the gunfire.
On Saturday, dozens of protesters participated in a funeral for photo journalist Ahmed Mehna, one of those killed in the attack. The mourners called for ‘retribution’ against the perpetrators, witnesses said.
Authorities said they would open an investigation into the attack, one of the deadliest in Iraq since anti-government rallies started more than two months ago.
On Saturday, army troops were deployed to al-Khilani and the surrounding area to protect peaceful demonstrators, General Qais al-Mahamdoui, the head of Baghdad Operations, a governmental security service, told Iraq's state news agency INA.
A cautious calm prevailed among protesters at al-Khilani and the nearby Sinak Bridge, witnesses told dpa.
Hundreds of people, mainly demonstrators, have been killed in anti-government protests that have roiled Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since early October.
Demonstrators are calling for the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament and an overhaul of the country's political system, which has been in place since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The demonstrations have turned violent amid accusations from rights groups that members of the Iraqi security forces used excessive force against protesters.
Iraqi authorities have repeatedly accused ‘outlaws’ of taking advantage of peaceful protests to attack demonstrators and security forces, and of vandalizing public and private property.
Last week, Iraqi parliament accepted Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi's resignation, bowing to a key demand of protesters.
The demonstrations are the largest in Iraq since December 2017, when Baghdad declared the liberation of all territory previously under the control of Islamic State extremists.
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