efe-epaGeneva

The United Nations has documented 269 deaths during the protests in Iraq since the beginning of October, including deliberate killings carried out by members of the security forces, which have clamped down on the unrest.

In a statement, the Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) said that at least 8,000 others, including members of the security forces, had been reported injured during the same period.

"The exact casualty figures may be much higher," the statement said.

"The majority of the casualties have resulted from the use of live ammunition by security forces and armed elements, described by many as private militia groups, as well as the unnecessary, disproportionate or improper use of less-lethal weapons such as tear gas."

Although the protests are centered around Baghdad, deaths and injuries have also been recorded in Basra, Dhi Qar and Karbala.

The demonstrations were originally slated to demand better public services and jobs.

"Just this morning, we received reports of five protesters killed during demonstrations in front of the Governorate building in Basra last night," the UN office said.

The OHCHR said it was investigating reports of abductions and multiple arrests of activists, bloggers and journalists.

"We urge the Iraqi Government to ensure it complies with its obligation to protect the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly."

In a separate report, Human Rights Watch said that at least 16 protesters had been killed due to direct impact from teargas cartridges fired by security forces.

"The high death toll includes people who took direct hits to the head from teargas cartridges, in numbers that suggest a gruesome pattern rather than isolated accidents," Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sara Leah Whitson.

The report also analyzed more than a dozen videos and gathered information on at least 12 deaths resulting from people being hit in the head by teargas cartridges.

NetBlocks, an independent platform monitoring internet access, on Friday said that the most violent clampdowns in Iraq occur when the country's internet is intentionally cut-off.

The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, an independent public organization that was documenting repression of protests, has not provided information for a few days.

The internet monitoring service said connectivity across Iraq was running at just 35 percent on Friday. EFE-EPA

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