BASRA, Iraq — Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition on hundreds of protesters in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, killing three civilians and wounding at least four.

A government official told The Associated Press that two policemen were killed and seven wounded in clashes between the two sides, marking some of the worst violence in the city since similar protests broke out in July over poor public services.

The government official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject.

The violence erupted during the funeral procession for 26-year-old Mekki Yasser, an activist who was killed during protests on Monday. As the mourners passed in front of the provincial government building, protesters threw stones, prompting security forces to fire tear gas at first, then live ammunition, killing another three protesters, according to activists.

The activists spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety. They said a fire was raging on the sixth floor of the provincial government building after protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails inside. A crowd of protesters tried to storm the building.

Iraqis in the south have been protesting against unemployment and poor public services since July. The demonstrations have often turned violent, with protesters attacking government offices and security forces.

Water shortages along with a lingering electricity crisis in the oil-rich region have contributed to protesters' rage, fueling the demonstrations in Basra.

Iraq's government has scrambled to meet the growing demands for public services and jobs, but has been hindered by years of endemic corruption and a financial crisis fueled by diminished oil revenues and the costly war against the Islamic State group.