Iraq security forces fire bullets and teargas in Baghdad

Iraqi security forces fired teargas and live rounds in renewed clashes with protesters on Sunday (January 26), security sources and witnesses said, as they tried to clear sit-in camps across the country.

Demonstrators are seeking the removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference, particularly that of Iran, in Iraqi politics.

Their protests have been bolstered by supporters of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who have, at times, helped shield the crowds from attacks by security forces and unidentified gunmen.

But on Saturday (January 25) al-Sadr said he would end his involvement in anti-government unrest.

Shortly afterwards, his supporters began withdrawing from sit-in camps and after that security forces removed concrete barriers near Baghdad's Tahirir Square where protesters have camped for months.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER, SAYING:

"The current government is illegal because it came from bogus elections. The people have been rejecting it for four months. Yesterday and today, thousands of students returned to protest sites despite the force being used by security forces. We appeal to the international community to protect us and to support our people against this corrupt and tyrannical government."

The unrest resumed last week after a lull of several weeks, following the killing of top Iranian commander Qassam Soleimani.

That killing has revived tensions in Iraqi politics and delayed the formation of a new government.

Medical sources said at least 14 protesters in Baghdad and 17 in Nassiriya were wounded on Sunday.