Iraqi President Barham Salih and US Vice President Mike Pence on Monday agreed that the ongoing protests in Iraq should be tackled without external interference.

Salih received a phone call from Pence and the two “discussed the current situation in Iraq and the region in general,” said a statement by Salih’s office.

Salih said the solutions to the current situation in Iraq should “be in accordance with the Iraqi national decision, away from external interference, and through peaceful means,” according to the statement.

Pence affirmed his country’s support for “the stability of Iraq and the aspirations of Iraqis for reform and peace, as well as the renunciation of violence,” the statement further said.

On Saturday, at least 23 people were killed and several others injured after unidentified assailants opened fire on anti-government protesters.

The incident, which came after a period of calm, raised fears of more armed attacks targeting protesters who have been cracked down on by security forces who have employed live ammunition.

President Saleh denounced the “armed criminal attack of criminal gangs,” whom he did not name.

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.

Earlier, an IHCHR statement said that the demonstrators in Wasit Province burned the Islamic Dawa Party headquarters and stormed the house of the governor in the province, while in the southern province of Dhi Qar, protesters burned the provincial government building.