The Iraqi Human Rights Commission published the latest death toll from the violence that accompanied the protests in several provinces, while Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's office warned that there were practices that were peaceful, but the Shiite authority called on the government to respond to the protesters' demands.

The Iraqi Independent Commission said the number of casualties in Baghdad and three other provinces rose to 23 dead and more than a thousand wounded during the past five days.

Most of the casualties were in Baghdad, and others in Basra, Karbala and Dhi Qar, a UNHCR statement said.

For his part, spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf that the parties described as perverted opened fire on demonstrators and security men in Basra, killing and wounding a number of parties.

Local, international and UN organizations have accused Iraqi forces of excessive violence against demonstrators and demanded maximum restraint.

Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly, to allow peaceful demonstrations and to cover protests.

It also called on the Iraqi government to open an urgent and independent investigation into the killing of demonstrators, leading to the prosecution of all those found to be violating the law.

The organization called on countries that have supported militarily units involved in the events in Iraq to stop their support.

Amnesty said the bombs used by Iraqi forces were 10 times the weight of ordinary bombs and were made in Bulgaria, Serbia and Iran.

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Warning Abdul Mahdi
For his part, warned the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi of the existence of what he described practices that he said were not related to democracy, and are affecting the peaceful demonstrations.

The Office said in a statement that there were criminal and terrorist acts clearly accompanying the demonstrations, such as the crime of unlawful killing of citizens and security forces, the prevention of state officials from carrying out their duty, or attacking public and private property.

The statement pointed out that some of the practices witnessed in the demonstrations of the past days are crimes punishable by imprisonment, some of them up to life.

The statement called on the demonstrators to maintain the peaceful demonstrations, noting the commitment of the State to take legal action against the perpetrators of these crimes.

the third week
This comes as protests calling for political and economic reform in Iraq continue for the third week.

In Basra, local sources said that security forces dispersed a demonstration in which hundreds of people participated, using live bullets to break up the gathering of protesters.

The security forces also dispersed another demonstration in the city of Rifai, north of Dhi Qar province, where they launched a campaign of mass arrests.

Tahrir Square in the center of the capital and other demonstrations have been popular since Thursday evening and Friday morning as a weekly gathering tradition on Friday.

In Baghdad, the number of people killed by live bullets rose to about six after security forces used live ammunition against demonstrators near the Martyrs Bridge in central Baghdad.

Earlier, Reuters quoted security and medical sources as saying that four protesters were killed in the center of the capital and wounded dozens in clashes near the Martyrs Bridge as they tried to cross.

The Baghdad Operations Command told Al Jazeera that arrest warrants had been issued for the force, which ordered the shooting of demonstrators near the Martyrs Bridge. Security forces managed to open the bridge after demonstrators closed it.

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Sistani's speech
In the meantime, the Supreme Leader of the Shiite Ali al-Sistani said that maintaining the peaceful protests is of great importance, and that "the greatest responsibility rests with the security forces to avoid the use of violence."

Sistani urged the government in the Friday sermon in the city of Karbala to respond to the demands of the protesters as soon as, also warned of the presence of "parties and internal and external parties may today seek to exploit the ongoing protest movement to achieve some of its objectives."

He added that the political forces in power have a unique opportunity to respond to the demands of the citizens according to an agreed roadmap, which will be implemented within a specified period of time, putting an end to a long era of corruption, abhorrent quotas and the absence of social justice. "There is a big risk surrounding the country."