At least six people were killed and 60 were injured late Saturday in clashes between rival protesters in southern Iraq as anti-government demonstrators and pro-government loyalists violently confronted each other on the outskirts of a mass rally in the city of Nasiriyah. The violence erupted after populist Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, the spiritual leader of parliament’s largest bloc, called on his supporters to take to the streets in a show of force against activists demanding social and economic reforms. Protesters accused al-Sadr followers of firing live ammunition at them and torching their sit-in tents pitched in a central Nasiriyah square. Last year, the southern city was central in the mass unrest that led to the ouster of then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Nearly 40 people died during protests there in November 2019. Mahdi’s successor, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, has since tried to appease young demonstrators by setting June 2021 as a date for early elections.
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