Baghdad
Iraqi security forces stand guard as supporters of the Sadrist movement gather during a demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on February 11, 2017, to demand the formation of an independent electoral commission © AFP Sabah ARAR

By Concise News Correspondent

Police in Iraq say seven people were killed in clashes that erupted in central Baghdad on Saturday between the security forces and protesters demanding reforms to Iraq’s electoral system.

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The incident is said to be the deadliest since a wave of demonstrations demanding better services and accusing Iraq’s political class of corruption and nepotism began in 2015.

Police fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the crowd when some protesters, most of them supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, tried to force a cordon and reach Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

“There were seven dead as a result of the violence. Two of them are from the security forces and the other five are protesters,” a police colonel told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said more than 200 were hurt in the chaos. Most were protesters suffering from tear gas inhalation, but at least 11 had more serious injuries caused by bullets and tear gas canisters.

Protesters initially gathered peacefully on Tahrir square to demand a change in the electoral law and the replacement of the electoral commission ahead of provincial polls due in September.

“The demonstrators tried to cross Jumhuriya bridge, the security forces fired tear gas to stop them but they insisted,” a senior police official said.