'Withdraw or Prepare Coffins': Iraqi Protesters Demand US Troops Exit

'Withdraw or Prepare Coffins': Iraqi Protesters Demand US Troops Exit

'Withdraw or Prepare Coffins': Iraqi Protesters Demand US Troops Exit

One rocket landed inside the embassy walls, an Iraqi security official said.

In Nasiriyah, security forces fired live rounds to disperse demonstrators angered by authorities pushing them out of roads around their main protest camp in Habbubi Square.

Three others died and 14 were injured in the southern city of Nassiriya when security forces took control of a bridge occupied for days by protesters, security sources and doctors said.

The US attack pushed the Shiite cleric and political leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, to turn his influence toward demanding an American troop withdrawal and holding an anti-US rally.

Sadr opposes all foreign interference in Iraq but has recently aligned himself more closely with Iran, whose allies have dominated state institutions since the US -led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

At around 2am local time Saturday, riot police set had fire to a protest encampment in a central square in the oil-rich southern city of Basra, two activists said.

"We called for more people to join us in Tahrir", said Noor, a protester who only gave her last name because she feared reprisal.

More than 600 people have been killed in anti-government demonstrations that started in October, according to the IHCHR and Amnesty International.

Three French nationals and one Iraqi working for a French non-governmental organisation have gone missing in Baghdad, their employer said on Friday (Jan 24), adding that no ransom money had been demanded.

Some protesters were anxious, however, that the departure of Mr al-Sadr's supporters and his militia members from Baghdad's Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement, could spark a renewed security crackdown.

The about-face prompted Sadr supporters, who had earned the reputation as the most well-organised demonstrators, to dismantle their camps across the country.

Sadr's followers held a march on Friday calling for a removal of USA troops from the country in a rally separate from the anti-government protests. At least 16 protesters were arrested.

More than 470 people have been killed in protest-related violence since October, according to an AFP tally.

"We protest because we have a cause".

Less than a week later, a USA drone strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis outside the Baghdad airport - prompting Iran to fire ballistic missiles at an Iraqi base where United States troops are stationed.

This followed a large march on Friday in which tens of thousands protested against the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

"I am expressing my disappointment and my regret toward all those who doubted me among the Tahrir Square protesters", he said in a tweet.

"This is considered a betrayal by the Sadr bloc".

Protesters continued to occupy bridges leading to Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

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