Football: Iraq captain urges end to celebratory fire

BAGHDAD - The captain of Iraq's football team Sunday urged fans to refrain from shooting in the air after celebratory gunfire reportedly wounded dozens following a victory against Iran.

Younis Mahmoud made his appeal in a video message he recorded from Australia and posted on Facebook on the eve of Iraq's Asian Cup semi-final clash with South Korea.

"I urge you to express your happiness in a dignified way because I think the shooting is hurting people," he said.

Interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said at least 89 people were wounded after Iraq's win Friday against arch-rivals Iran in a dramatic penalty shoot-out triggered celebratory gunfire across Baghdad.

Reports have surfaced on the Internet of at least two children being killed by falling bullets. While he could not confirm the number of deaths, Maan said many of the wounded suffered head wounds.

"This shooting could hurt a family and this family will not have fun with us, it will be prevented from celebrating with us," Iraq's talismanic captain Mahmoud said.

"I urge you all to stop firing," he said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised to crack down on any further celebratory gunfire in Iraq, which is awash with weapons, but such pledges have been made before with little effect.

"I have ordered the security forces to prevent celebratory gunfire and punish violators," he said in a statement.

He urged the security forces, the sport, health and tribal authorities as well as civil society to "play an active role in spreading awareness and contribute to ending this uncivilised behaviour."

Reactions to the victory against Iran on Friday were particularly enthusiastic because the neighbouring countries have a long-standing rivalry.

The victory, which came after a nail-biting finish, was also a rare moment of cross-sectarian rejoicing in a country which has been riven by internal divisions and a June offensive by the Islamic State jihadist group.

People usually fire into the air at an angle, which means bullets come back to earth on a curve with residual velocity instead of in a perfectly vertical, and less dangerous, free fall.