Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, gave on Friday the Baghdad government a two-week deadline to find out which "undisciplined elements" had used snipers to shoot dead scores of protesters.
Sistani "demands that the government investigate to find out which elements gave orders to shoot protesters, whatever their affiliation," a representative of the cleric said during a sermon in Kerbala.
He said the government was responsible for the deaths of protesters, who took to the streets last week to express anger over the lack of jobs, poor services and government corruption.
Snipers fired from rooftops at crowds of demonstrators during the crackdown. Many protesters were killed and wounded by shots to the head, neck and chest.
Sistani denounced the use of snipers to quell unrest. He also criticized attacks on journalists, after unidentified gunmen raided the offices of several TV stations and at least two other reporters were snatched and briefly detained also by unidentified security personnel.
Last week, the cleric stressed that the government should change its approach in dealing with the challenges facing the country.
The government "must do what it can to improve public services, find work for the unemployed, end clientelism, deal with the corruption issue and send those implicated in it to prison," he said.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman has said an investigation was underway to determine the source of live fire that killed many of the more than 100 people who have died during six days of unrest in the country.
Spokesman Saad Maan claimed Sunday that local security forces did not clash with protesters. He said that "malicious hands" were targeting protesters and security forces as well.