Three anti-government protesters have been shot dead and at least 58 others injured in continued unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq even as Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi formally submitted his resignation.
Iraq’s parliament will either vote on or accept outright Mr Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation letter in a sitting on Sunday.
The prime minister announced on Thursday that he would hand parliament his resignation on Friday amid mounting pressure from mass anti-government protests, a day after more than 40 demonstrators were killed by security forces in Baghdad and southern Iraq.
The announcement also came after Iraq’s top Shia cleric withdrew his support for the government in a weekly sermon.
The formal resignation came after an emergency cabinet session earlier on Saturday in which ministers approved the document and the resignation of key staff, including Mr Abdul-Mahdi’s chief of staff.
In a pre-recorded speech, Mr Abdul-Mahdi addressed Iraqis, saying that his cabinet would be demoted to caretaker status, unable to pass new laws and make key decisions.
He listed his government’s accomplishments, saying it had come to power during difficult times. “Not many people were optimistic that this government would move forward,” he said.
He said the government had managed to push through important job-creating projects and improve electricity generation.
“But unfortunately, these events took place,” he said, referring to the mass protest movement that engulfed Iraq on October 1. “We need to be fair to our people and listen to them.”
At least 400 people have died since the leaderless uprising shook Iraq, with thousands of people taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shia southern Iraq decrying corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and calling for an end to the post-2003 political system.
Security forces have used live fire, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse crowds, leading to the heavy casualties.
Three protesters were killed and 24 injured in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq on Saturday as security forces used live rounds to disperse them from a mosque.
In Baghdad, at least 11 protesters were injured near the strategic Ahrar Bridge when security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to prevent demonstrators from removing barricades.