BAGHDAD: An Iraqi government committee investigating a wave of unrest found that 157 people, mostly civilians, were killed because security forces used excessive force and live fire to quell protests, according to a report by the panel seen by Reuters.
Protests over high unemployment, poor public services and corruption erupted on Oct. 1, prompting a violent security crackdown. Protesters blame graft and infighting among political leaders for failing to improve their lives even in peacetime, two years after Islamic State was declared defeated in Iraq.
“The committee found that officers and commanders lost control over their forces during the protests (and this) caused chaos,” the panel said in its report.
It said the committee found evidence of sniper fire targeting protesters from inside a building in central Baghdad.
“The committee found during its field investigation shells from a sniper rifle inside an abandoned building near a petrol station in central Baghdad,” the report said.
It said 149 civilians and eight members of the security forces were killed before the unrest subsided on Oct. 7. Protesters plan to resume rallies on Friday.
It recommended that the Baghdad operations commander in charge of the response to the unrest and dozens of other senior security officials be dismissed.
Iran-backed militias deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops during what became Iraq’s deadliest anti-government protests for years, two Iraqi security officials told Reuters last week.