At least 27 people have been killed in Iraq on one of the bloodiest days since anti-government protests began last month.
At least 20 people died when security forces opened fire to clear bridges in the southern city of Nasiriya. Another four protesters died in Baghdad and three more in the city of Najaf, where Iran’s consulate was also burnt.
Iraqis have been taking to the streets to demand more jobs, an end to corruption and better public services.
The Iraqi military has announced it is setting up military “crisis cells” to quell unrest. The military command said an emergency unit had been created to “impose security and restore order”.
At least 350 people have been killed and thousands wounded since the unrest began.
When the military were sent to tackle unrest in Nasiriya troops used live ammunition and tear gas to clear sit-ins on two bridges.
Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, Lynn Maalouf, called the protests scenes “more closely resemble a war zone than city streets and bridges”, accusing security forces of “appalling violence against largely peaceful protesters”.
Live rounds were also fired at the strategic Ahrar Bridge in Baghdad as protesters tried to cross towards the so-called Green Zone that hosts the country’s parliament. Four protesters died there, more than 20 people were wounded.