At least one person was dead and more than a dozen wounded after an explosives placed under a vehicle went off near the main protest camp of Tahrir (Liberation) Square in Baghdad on Friday, according to security forces.
Earlier on Friday, a top Shiite cleric said that Iraq will never be the same following the weeks of demonstrations sweeping its capital and south, giving a major boost to anti-government protests with his most emphatic endorsement to date.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s comments sent waves of protesters into the streets of Baghdad during the day, but panic set in just before midnight with a bomb blast.
Earlier in the month, Iraqi authorities reduced the curfew in the country to four hours from six.
A statement by Baghdad Operations Command (BOC), responsible for the security of Baghdad province had decided to set the new curfew, while the previous one imposed on October 28 started from midnight.
Last month, thousands of protesters took to the street to protests to demand jobs and better public services in Iraq.
Protesters, most of them young people, waved Iraqi flags and chanted slogans such as “They are all thieves,” apparently referring to the country’s political class.
Demonstrations have since escalated into demands for root-and-branch reform of the political system.
Sistani cautiously backed the protests when they began but has since firmed up his support, describing protests on Friday as “the honourable way” to seek change.
“If those in power think that they can evade the benefits of real reform by stalling and procrastination, they are delusional,” Sistani said in his weekly sermon, delivered by a representative in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
The 89-year-old cleric is based in the Shiite holy city of Najaf and never appears in public, remains hugely influential in the Shiite-majority south.
Shortly after his sermon, demonstrators hit the street in Najaf.
Thousands also rallied in the southern hotspots of Kut, Hilla, Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah.
Security forces had ended a sit-in there a week ago but a group of about 20 men cut the road again on Friday.
Protesters blame that system for rampant corruption, staggering unemployment rates and poor services in resource-rich Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest producer.
Since October 25, massive protests broke out in Baghdad and other central and southern provinces over similar reasons that left 157 people dead, including security forces.
These new waves of protests follow the initial demonstrations that erupted on October 1, which spread through the capital and other regions of Iraq due to outrage over the lack of public services and employment opportunities.
(With inputs from agency)