Around midnight, CTS troops took over checkpoints in neighbourhoods surrounding Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square and began corralling protesters out. Security forces firing tear gas had earlier failed to clear the square of demonstrators.
In Nasiriya, CTS soldiers broke up demonstrations by beating and arresting dozens, police and security sources said.
The two cities, where thousands had turned out for a second day of protests, saw the bulk of Saturday’s violence as protesters continued to vent their frustration at political elites they say have failed to improve their lives after years of conflict and economic hardship.
Four people were killed after being struck directly in the head by tear gas canisters fired by security forces in Baghdad, with dozens more wounded. Four others died in Nasiriya, when a group of protesters stormed the home of a local security official, police said. Guards opened fire after the protesters torched the building, police said.
Seven more people died in Hilla, most when members of the Iranian-backed Badr Organisation militia group opened fire on protesters who had gathered near their office.
At least 52 people were killed around the country on Friday, and more than 2000 more wounded.
The latest bloodshed was the second major bout of violence this month. Earlier in October, 157 people were killed and more than 6000 wounded in other clashes between protesters and security forces.
The unrest has broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq, which from 2003 to 2017 endured a foreign occupation, civil war and an Islamic State insurgency.