More than 60 people were killed and thousands wounded in Iraq as protestors clashed with security forces in a second wave of protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government this month, AFP reported.

The demonstrations were the biggest challenge to Mahdi since he took office just a year ago. His government struggled to contain the protests against staggering rates of joblessness and graft allegations. Mahdi has promised a list of reforms, including hiring drives, increased pensions and a cabinet reshuffle.

Seeking to contain the violence, Mahdi on Saturday night ordered members of the country’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service onto the streets of the capital Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriya. Curfews were also announced across most of Iraq’s southern provinces. However, protests still took place in Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah, Babylon and Najaf.

Protesters torched dozens of provincial government buildings, party offices and offices belonging to factions of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force. Three people were shot dead while setting fire to a local official’s home in the southern province of Dhi Qar.

“Our protests are peaceful, we only have flags and water bottles, but they keep firing bombs at us, firing tear gas at us,” a 33-year-old demonstrator Silwan Ali told Reuters. “What have we done to deserve this? What have we done? The young men who died, what did they do?” he asked.

The United Nations called the deaths “tragic” and warned against “armed spoilers”. “Armed entities sabotaging the peaceful demonstrations, eroding the government’s credibility and ability to act, cannot be tolerated,” UN top official in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said.

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