Iraq claims 'third party' killed protesters, bought lethal tear gas grenades

Iraq claims 'third party' killed protesters, bought lethal tear gas grenades
Amnesty International has condemned Iraqi security forces for their alleged use of military-grade tear gas grenades.
2 min read
24 November, 2019
Tear gas and live fire have been the main cause of death for protesters [AFP]
Iraq's defence ministry claimed on Sunday it did not imported lethal tear gas grenades behind the gruesome deaths of protesters.

Defence Minister Najah al-Shammari has not signed an agreement to import the military-grade grenades, which weigh up to ten times the weight of regular tear gas canisters, it said, according to German news agency dpa.

Amnesty International condemned Iraqi security forces for their alleged use of the lethal tear gas grenades last month.

While regular tear cas canisters can prove deadly, especially if directed at someone's head, the military-grade grenades have been responsible for horrific injuries.

Videos and photos shared on social media since the crackdown on dissent intensified in late October show the smoking grenades lodged in the skulls of demonstrators.

Activists and rights organisations have accused Iraqi security forces of deliberately targeting protesters' heads.

"All the evidence points to Iraqi security forces deploying these military-grade grenades against protesters in Baghdad, apparently aiming for their heads or bodies at point-blank range," Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty's Middle East Research Director, said in a statement last month.

Iraq's defence ministry on Sunday denied buying the grenades, which Amnesty researchers identified as being manufactured in Serbia and Iran.

The ministry also denied official security had used the grenades, blaming the deadly force on an unidentified "third party".

This "third party" was responsible for using the lethal grenades in order to create "chaos", it said, adding that the ministry and government supported the rights of civilians to protest.

Although protesters have blamed some of the deadly violence on Iraq's official security forces, the Iran-linked Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces militias, have also been identified by activists as attacking demonstrators.

Around 350 people have been killed since the mass protests erupted in early October, according to a tally composed by AFP. Hundreds more have been injured in the demonstrations, which have taken place throughout the capital Baghdad and the country's south.

Demonstrators are demanding the overthrow of an entrenched political class that dates back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The government is accused of endemic corruption, economic mismanagement, serving foreign interests and failing to provide basic public services.

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