Iraq protests: major Baghdad bridges captured by police forces amid deaths, heavy clashes

Iraqi security forces cleared three flashpoint bridges in Baghdad of anti-government protesters on Saturday, using stun grenades and tear gas amid heavy clashes, while three more protesters were killed in the southern city of Basra overnight.

Mass protests erupted in Baghdad and across southern Iraq last month, calling for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The demonstrations and a heavy-handed security response have resulted so far in more than 250 deaths.

In the capital, demonstrators were pushed back under clouds of tear gas from the Sinak bridge to the nearby Khilani square, where 35 people were wounded, according to medical officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Security forces moved on to regain control of two other bridges nearby, Ahrar and Shuhada.

The bridges span the Tigris and give access to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. Protesters have tried to force their way across on an almost daily basis.

The day before, authorities found a bomb under the Sinak bridge, and carried out a controlled explosion of it, according to state television.

In the southern city of Basra, three more protesters were killed overnight, raising to eight death toll since Thursday. Clashes with security forces also led to wounded in other parts of southern Iraq, including the city of Nasiriyah, according to security officials.

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