Iraqi protesters claim 'massacre' in Karbala, as official deny any deaths

On Tuesday, new demonstrations began in Karbala and Baghdad to protest killings on what is now the fifth day of protests.

Demonstrators take part in a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services, in Iraq (photo credit: THAIER AL-SUDANI/REUTERS)
Demonstrators take part in a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services, in Iraq
The Iraqi Human Rights Commission reported on Tuesday that least 18 people were killed and over 800 were wounded as Iraqi forces opened fire on protesters in the city of Karbala overnight, while Iraqi officials denied the existence of any deaths.
According to Al Arabiya, security forces also ran vehicles into the protesters. Some media sources even put the number of killed at 30, according to Al Hadath. Videos showed large numbers of casualties in local hospitals.

On Tuesday, new demonstrations began in Karbala and Baghdad to protest the killings in what is now the fifth day of protests that have swept the country since they were renewed last week, according to Sky News Arabia.
The Governor of Karbala denied that there were any deaths among protesters or security forces overnight, according to Al Arabiya, adding that videos circulated on social media were from other locations. According to the governor, orders were issued not to use live bullets against demonstrators.
Karbala police claimed that the published videos were "incorrect" and aimed to incite protests. A statement by Iraqi police stressed that only one person was killed in the area on Monday and that reports claiming otherwise were false. The police added that they would "sue any media trying to discredit the city of Karbala without referring to the main source before publication."
"The situation is very good in Karbala," stated the Iraqi Middle Euphrates Operations Command.
Activists circulated videos of protesters running as security forces and militias opened fire. Screaming and gunfire could be heard in many of the fires and multiple casualties could be seen as well.
Demonstrators in Karbala accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of breaking up the protests and committing a "massacre" against protesters on Monday night. An Iraqi official and witnesses reported that "masked gunmen" opened fire on protesters.
Video circulated by activists on Sunday showed protesters raising the Iraqi flag in front of the Iranian embassy in Karbala. Demonstrators who stormed the embassy chanted slogans against Iran's presence in Iraq.
On Friday, Wissam Al-alawi, a commander of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militia, was killed along with his brother by protesters in southern Iraq as they were being evacuated from the area in an ambulance. Video circulated on social media showed demonstrators attempting to remove the two from the ambulance.
The leader of the powerful Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia, Qais al-Khazali, said the killing of Alawi is the "the greatest evidence of the project of sedition... and the size of the plot targeting us."
"This blood will change the equation," said Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr organization, whose buildings were burnt in some locations in Iraq.
"The Popular Mobilization [Forces] will intervene at the appropriate time under the command of the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces," said deputy head of the PMF Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes.
The Peace Companies, a militia created by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, took to the streets of Karbala to protect demonstrators on Saturday, according to Al Sumaria news.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi deployed elite counter-terrorism troops to the streets of Baghdad and ordered them to use any means necessary to end protests against his government, two security sources told Reuters on Saturday.
Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service also deployed to the southern city of Nasiriya where protesters clashed with security forces on Saturday, who broke up demonstrations by beating and arresting dozens of people.
Clashes between protesters and security forces left 157 people dead and over 6,000 wounded during protests at the beginning of October against government corruption and poor living conditions. The protests had died down since, but were renewed on Friday.
Reuters contributed to this report.