BAGHDAD, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Monday condemned the use of hunting rifles with birdshot in recent protests in Baghdad, which caused high number of casualties.
A statement by Hennis-Plasschaert, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said that UNAMI received "credible allegations" that peaceful protesters have been targeted by hunting guns on the road between the squares of al-Tahrir and al-Khalani in downtown Baghdad in the evening of Feb. 14 to 16, injuring at least 50 people.
"A number of security personnel were also injured, including by pellets from hunting guns, stones or Molotov cocktails," the statement said.
"Allegations on the use of similar kinetic impact projectiles were received from Karbala as well, causing injuries to over 150 protesters in January alone," Hennis-Plasschaert added.
She called on the Iraqi authorities to prevent the use of force and to hold those responsible for the abuse accountable, asserting that the "peaceful protesters should be protected at all times," according to the statement.
Mass anti-government demonstrations have been continuing in Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since October 2019, demanding comprehensive reform, fight against corruption, better public services and more job opportunities.
According to Iraq's Independent High Commission for Human Rights, the nationwide protests of over four months have caused the death of 544, with 23,700 others wounded.