Renewed anti-government protests across Iraq left more than 40 people dead on Friday through tear gas, live rounds and fires, a watchdog and security sources told AFP.
The protests represent a second phase of a week-long movement in early October that ended with more than 150 people dead.
Rallies had resumed on Friday, with a range of actors from Iraq’s highest Shiite authority to the United Nations urging restraint.
They began early and calm on Thursday evening, with protesters exchanging flowers with security forces and the interior minister insisting police would “protect” protesters.
But by Friday evening, demonstrations across the country had descended into violence that left 42 protesters dead — at least half of them as they attacked the headquarters of armed factions or government bodies.
Twelve died in the southern city of Diwaniyah alone, while setting fire to the headquarters of the powerful Iran-backed Badr organization, part of the Popular Mobilization Force paramilitary, security sources told AFP.
Another 30 came in a toll compiled by the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, which did not include the Diwaniyah dead.
The national rights watchdog said the 30 were killed by gunshots or tear gas canisters in the capital and four southern provinces.
Several died while trying to storm the offices of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, another Iran-backed armed faction, in two southern cities.
Parliament is scheduled to meet on Saturday to discuss the protests further.