BAGHDAD: Iraq’s premier on Friday urged anti-government protesters to go home, saying their “legitimate demands” have been heard and comparing security measures imposed in the wake of this week’s demonstrations to “bitter medicine” that needs to be swallowed as the death toll from the violence rose to 42. Dozens of protesters defied his message, gathering shortly before noon near Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square. Many had camped out on the streets overnight. Security forces responded by firing live bullets to disperse the crowd near Tahrir.
Meanwhile, Iraqi hospital officials reported nine more deaths in the southern city of Nasiriyah, about 320 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, bringing this week’s overall death toll to 42. Hospital officials said the deaths occurred late Thursday. Nasiriyah has witnessed the most violence in the protests, with at least 25 people, including a policeman, killed. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Since Tuesday, security forces have fired live rounds and tear gas every day to disperse protesters demanding job opportunities, improved services and an end to corruption. Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi spoke in a televised address to the nation, broadcast at 2:30 a.m., about the demonstrations that have spread across many provinces in the country.