The death toll in five days of clashes between Iraqi police and protesters rose to over 100 on Sunday and the government struggled to appease public anger over corruption and unemployment by announcing reforms.
The Interior Ministry said the toll was now 104 killed and more than 6,000 wounded in violence since Tuesday but denied government forces had shot directly at demonstrators. The dead included eight members of the security forces.
The protests pose the biggest security and political challenge for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government since it took power a year ago, and have revived fears of a new spiral of violence that could suck in influential militia groups.
Two years after oil-producing Iraq declared the defeat of Islamic State, security has improved but corruption is rampant, wrecked infrastructure has not been rebuilt and jobs are scarce.
At an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday night, Abdul Mahdi’s government agreed a 17-point plan to increase subsidized housing for the poor, stipends for the unemployed and training programs and small loans initiatives for unemployed youth.
The families of those killed during demonstrations this week will also receive handouts and care usually granted to members of the security forces killed during war.
“Amid all of this, I swear to God that my only concern is for the casualties,” Abdul Mahdi was quoted by state television as saying during the cabinet meeting,
Details of the plan were disseminated on social media, but there was a continued internet outage across most of the country.
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