Baghdad, Feb 25 (AFP) Security forces used watercannons and tear gas to disperse thousands of angry protestersin Baghdad today as a "Day of Rage" across Iraq left 15demonstrators dead in clashes with police.
Around 5,000 people thronged Baghdad''s Tahrir Square,with angry crowds throwing stones, shoes and plastic bottlesat riot police and soldiers blocking off a bridge connectingthe site to Baghdad''s heavily fortified Green Zone, home tothe US embassy and parliament.
The protest was the biggest of at least 17 separatedemonstrations across the country, some sparking clashes inwhich more than 130 people were wounded, according to an AFPtally based on accounts by officials.
Four government buildings were also set ablaze and oneprovincial governor resigned.
By evening, most of the crowd in Baghdad had left andsecurity forces refused to allow anyone to enter the areasurrounding the square.
An AFP journalist said security forces had used awater cannon and tear gas in a bid to disperse the crowd. Aninterior ministry official said 15 people were wounded.
During the protest, demonstrators overturned twoconcrete blast walls on Jumhuriyah bridge, spurring lines ofanti-riot police and soldiers to assemble, blocking it off.
Security was deployed in force, imposing a city-widevehicle ban after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claimedAl-Qaeda insurgents and loyalists of deposed dictator SaddamHussein were behind the demonstrations.
Following the conclusion of today''s protests inBaghdad, Maliki said in a statement that Iraqis behavedresponsibly, and said the country "did not give a chance toterrorists to take action."Rallies in Iraq have called for improved publicservices, more jobs and less corruption, and some for broaderpolitical reforms.
Rated the fourth-most corrupt country in the world byTransparency International, Iraq suffers from poor electricityand water provision, as well as high unemployment nearly eightyears after the 2003 US-led invasion.
MP Sabah al-Saadi, who turned up at the Baghdadprotest, was met with shouts and jeers, with one protesterasking: "Why are MPs taking millions of dinars (thousands ofdollars) in salaries?""You have to cut your salary -- we have nothing! Whyare you taking so much money when we have no money?" (AFP)