Death Toll Surges to 46 as Iraq Unrest Accelerates

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Baghdad: The death toll from days of violent demonstrations across Iraq surged to 46 on Friday, most of them killed in the last 24 hours, as unrest rapidly accelerated and the country’s most powerful cleric placed the blame squarely on politicians.In a rare intervention, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose word is law for most of Iraq’s majority Shi’ites, called on protesters and the security forces to avoid violence. But he also ordered political factions to respond to protest demands.

Tensions have been exacerbated by a near-total internet blackout as the authorities seek to prevent protesters communicating with each other or posting footage of the chaotic demonstrations.The demonstrations are the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who has imposed curfews in Baghdad and other cities to try to stop the protests gathering steam.

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