BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi authorities on Wednesday reopened one of Baghdad's major bridges, shut for months by anti-government protesters, in a sign of a lull in unrest that has killed hundreds of people and forced the prime minister to resign last year.
The Sinak Bridge, one of the main routes across the Tigris River that bisects the city, leads to a district near the fortified Green Zone of government and diplomatic buildings.
It runs parallel to another major bridge, Al Jumhuriya, which connects the Green Zone itself to the main protest camp at Tahrir Square, and which remains shut.
"Since early this morning, ... with the cooperation of protesters, we were able to re-open the Sinak bridge to let vehicles and residents cross freely," said Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Bayati, the secretary of the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces.
Security forces could be seen near cranes lifting cement barricades put up to block protesters from crossing the bridge. Some tents belonging to protesters were still in place.
Later on Wednesday, security forces clashed with protesters, using tear gas and rubber bullets and attempting to keeping them away from the bridge, police sources said. At least nine protesters were injured.
Nearly 500 people have been killed in demonstrations which have raged since October, demanding the removal of what protesters see as a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference - mainly by Iran and the United States.
The Baghdad military operations office called on remaining protesters to stay at their main protest camp in Tahrir square, state TV reported.
"The re-opening of the bridge makes me happy," a driver on the newly reopened bridge told Reuters TV. "The government should work to satisfy citizens. We don’t want anything else. We want life to come back to normal."
In separate violence, at least 12 security personnel and 11 protesters were injured in the southern Iraqi province of Nassiriya, medical and security sources said, after clashes broke out in the afternoon.
Tensions there ran high after the delayed release of 39 protesters who were detained and the attempted killing of a lawyer known to defend protesters by unidentified gunmen earlier that day, said one of the lawyers handling the protesters' case.
(Reporting by Maher Nazih, Additional reporting by Baghdad bureau; Writing by Mohammed Katfan and Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Peter Graff and Paul Simao)