Security forces in Iraq have opened fire on protesters in the country's capital, Baghdad, killing and wounding several people, according to witnesses and news reports.
Al Jazeera's Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Baghdad, said the clashes occurred when protesters tried to topple barricades on Baghdad's Ahrar Bridge on Monday.
"A witness told us that the police responded with live ammunition, not tear gas and that at least five people may have been killed," she said.
"A medical source told us about 30 people have been injured and these injuries are gunshot wounds to the head and face. The injured include security forces as well as protesters."
A spokesperson for Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi disputed the claims, however, telling Al Jazeera that "no one has been killed [in Baghdad] this evening," said Ghoneim.
The Reuters news agency also said at least five people were killed in the clashes near the Ahrar Bridge. Video footage showed security forces shooting one protester dead with live ammunition, it said, while a Reuters cameraman said he saw at least four other people killed.
However, security and medical sources told the agency that one person died and 22 were wounded. The sources said rubber bullets and tear gas, not live ammunition, were used.
The Associated Press also reported clashes in Baghdad, saying dozens of protesters were seen running through the streets, some of them carrying wounded people, as gunshots echoed in the background.
Protesters could be seen throwing rocks at security forces, who deployed an armored vehicle with a water cannon, the agency said, adding that it was not immediately clear how many protesters were wounded.
AFP, meanwhile, reported that live rounds were fired at protesters amassing near the headquarters of state-run Iraqi TV in the capital.
Monday's deaths were in addition to three protesters who were killed late on Sunday when security forces opened fire on a crowd trying to storm the Iranian consulate in the Shia Muslim holy city of Karbala, security and medical sources said.
Security forces in Baghdad had refrained from using live fire in recent days. Nearly 150 people were killed between October 1-7, with 70 percent of deaths resulting from bullets to the head or chest, a government committee report has found.
Scores more have been killed since protests resumed on October 24. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have protested in central Baghdad and across majority-Shia southern Iraq in recent days.
The demonstrations are rooted in long-standing grievances over poor governance, official corruption and lack of economic opportunity, but have since expanded into demands for sweeping changes and an overhaul of the country's political system, which was established after the US-led invasion in 2003.
Demonstrators have directed their ire at a class of elite leaders whom they accuse of pillaging the oil-rich country's wealth while the population grows poorer. Protesters have also directed their rage at neighboring Iran and the powerful Iraqi Shia militias tied to it.
Abdul Mahdi, in a statement late on Sunday, called on protesters to halt sit-ins and help restore a sense of normalcy across the country.
"Threatening the oil interests and blocking roads leading to Iraq's ports is causing big losses exceeding billions of dollars," he said, warning that unrest would push up the price of goods.
His statement made no mention of resignation - Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Thursday that Abdul Mahdi was willing to step down once political leaders agreed on a replacement.
The president had also called for new election law and said he would approve early elections once it was enacted. In a meeting with the heads of trade unions on Sunday, Salih said the new election law would be submitted to parliament this week.
However, even if the new electoral law is quickly approved, the process of holding elections and forming a new government could take several months.
Source: Al Jazeera