Iraqi officials raised on Saturday the death toll to 25 protesters killed and over 130 wounded, after a bloody night of attacks by unknown gunmen that targeted anti-government demonstrators in Baghdad.
The attack on Friday was among the deadliest since Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets calling for sweeping political reforms and the end of Iran's influence in Iraqi affairs. Security forces regularly use live rounds and tear gas to disperse the demonstrations, leading to heavy casualties.
The gunfire continued until the early hours of Saturday morning. The assailants first unleashed the deadly assault on Baghdad's Khilani Square and Sinak Bridge, driving through the areas that are the epicenter of the popular uprising, The Associated Press reported.
Protesters said the electricity in the square was cut, creating chaos as they ran from the bullets and took cover in nearby mosques and streets.
The attack led to the burning of a car park that demonstrators had converted into a base for their sit-in, while surrounding buildings in the square were pockmarked with bullet holes. On Saturday, protesters raised a bloodied white flag as they sought to return to the scene.
One protester was seen collecting the spent cartridges and held out at least a dozen.
The growing protests came as a drone dropped a bomb on the home of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr in the city of Najaf early Saturday but he was not in the country, sources within his party told Agence France Presse.
Sadr has backed the anti-government rallies, sending his supporters into the streets of the capital overnight to "protect protesters.”