BAGHDAD — Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric urged political leaders Friday to find a way out of the current cycle of anti-government protests and a subsequent security crackdown that has left more than 250 people dead, saying the country faces “great risks” if it continues.
The protests continued to spread, with tens of thousands of people in the streets of Baghdad and across the largely Shiite south demanding sweeping political change. Demonstrators in the capital set up tents for a sit-in that extended to new streets and onto the banks of the Tigris River.
In the latest violence, 32 people were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters in confrontations on Baghdad’s famous Rasheed Street, its oldest avenue and cultural center known for its crumbling houses. Tear gas filled the air as protesters used slingshots to hurl stones at security forces.
In the southern city of Basra on Thursday night, masked men attacked the protesters, killing five people, Iraqi state TV and medical officials said. The shooting also wounded about 120, said medical officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Fifteen others in the city were injured Friday by tear gas.