On Saturday, Iraqi security forces raided the main protest site at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. The security forces fired live rounds and tear gas at the anti-governmental demonstrators camped there. The protestors were camped there for months prior to the raid. While there were no reported casualties or injuries from the raid, seven people were wounded in clashes with security forces earlier in the day as per media reports.
The clashes between protestors and security forces were sparked by the security forces removing concrete barriers near the Tahrir Square. In the southern city of Basra, security forces raided the main site of the protests and deployed there in force in order to prevent them from gathering there again. Reports claimed that 16 protestors were also arrested in Basra.
The sudden flurry of activity according to reports appears to be an attempt to fully clear out anti-government sit-ins and to finally end popular demonstrations that have been going on for months. The demonstrations were calling for the removal of Iraq's ruling elite. These raids by the security forces came just a few hours after populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared that he would halt the involvement of his supporters in the anti-government movement.
On Tuesday, Iraqi security forces and anti-government protesters clashed at the Mohammed al-Qassim highway in central Baghdad. Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live rounds during the clashes while protesters threw Molotov bombs at them. The uprising began on October 1st last year when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to decry rampant government corruption, poor public services and a scarcity of jobs.
The anti-government movement had scored several successes before the U.S. strike diverted public attention. In December, pressure from demonstrations led Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, to withdraw support for the government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi, prompting the prime minister's resignation.
(with inputs from agencies)