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The demonstrations began in Baghdad Tuesday and quickly grew and spread to other cities, mainly in Iraq's south. Police have fired live rounds, tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.
Police and gunmen exchanged fire in a southern Iraqi city Thursday killing one person after 11 others were killed overnight as nationwide anti-government protests escalated into one of the worst security challenges in years.
At least 19 people have been killed since the protests erupted three days ago, seemingly independent of any organized political party and taking the security forces by surprise.
Police said protesters carrying guns had fired at them in the town of Rifae Thursday morning, near the southern city of Nasiriyah where seven people died overnight. Fifty people were wounded in Rifae, including five policemen, they said, adding to hundreds already injured across the country.
Clashes in another southern city, Amara, killed four people overnight.
A curfew, lifted early in the morning in southern cities, was reimposed immediately in Nassiriya and later in Amara.
In Baghdad, the authorities attempted to head off protests by imposing a curfew beginning at 5 A.M.. Troops patrolled main roads and public spaces, but by morning sporadic demonstrations had begun, and troops opened fire with live rounds to disperse them.
"Despite the curfew we are going out to protest to call for our rights. We want to change the regime. They have arrested our people. They have done things to our people they did not even do to Islamic State," a protester said.
"They have beat them up and humiliated them while firing live gunfire. What did we do? Are we suicide bombers? We are here to call for our rights and all these people."
Residents of the Iraqi capital queued outside supermarkets and food stores to stock up on supplies in case of a sudden rise in prices or further security restrictions by authorities.
The demonstrations began in Baghdad Tuesday and quickly grew and spread to other cities, mainly in Iraq's south. Police have fired live rounds, tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters.
Protesters directed their anger at a government and political class they say is corrupt and doing nothing to improve their lives. They demanded jobs, better services and called for the "downfall of the regime."