Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Corruption, economic stagnation, poor public services fuel demonstrations

Masked men attack protesters in Iraq holy city

Masked gunmen opened fire at Iraqi protesters in the Shia holy city of Karbala on Tuesday, killing 18 people and wounding hundreds, security officials said, in one of the deadliest single attacks since anti-government demonstrations erupted earlier this month.

The overnight attack came as Iraqis took to the streets for a fifth straight day after a hiatus in the demonstrations that began earlier this month to protest government corruption, a lack of jobs and municipal services and other grievances. The earlier protests also saw violence against protesters, and a total of 240 people have been killed since the unrest began.

But the bloodshed in Karbala could mark a turning point because of the high death toll and because the city is a major pilgrimage site where a revered Shia figure was killed in a 7th century battle.

There were differing accounts and death tolls, and details were still emerging from the scene.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, and protesters said they did not know who the masked men were. The protesters said Iraqi soldiers had been stationed around the protest site but withdrew after the attackers began firing tear gas and live ammunition.

Amid a clampdown by security forces, it was difficult to piece together what exactly prompted the attack although eyewitnesses told The Associated Press that masked gunmen opened fire on the camp.