Anti-government protesters burned down an Iranian consulate building in southern Iraq on Wednesday, while six protesters were killed by security forces who fired live rounds amid ongoing violence in the country, Iraqi officials say. Protesters torched the consulate in the holy city of Najaf in the evening, the AP reports. One protester was killed and at least 35 people were wounded when police fired live ammunition to prevent them from entering the building, a police official says. The demonstrators removed the Iranian flag from the building and replaced it with an Iraqi one. Iranian staff were not harmed and escaped the building from the back door.
The incident marked an escalation in the demonstrations that have raged in Baghdad and across mostly Shiite southern Iraq since Oct. 1. The protesters accuse the Shiite-led government of being hopelessly corrupt and complain of poor public services and high unemployment. They are also decrying growing Iranian influence in Iraqi state affairs. Protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in Karbala earlier this month, scaling concrete barriers running the building. Security forces have fired bullets, tear gas, and smoke bombs on a near daily basis since the unrest began. At least 350 people have been killed and thousands wounded.
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