Thousands of protesters have stormed the fortified center of Baghdad and occupied the parliament.
A huge crowd forced their way into the green zone in an effort to prevent the formation of a government with close ties to Iran.
Supporters of populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr knocked down concrete barriers and made their way through Iraqi security forces amid reports of gunfire.
The group stormed the parliament building and announced an open ‘sit-in’ protest, while the supreme court responded by issuing an arrest warrant for one of its leaders.
At least 125 people have been injured and the stand-off is risking the country’s fragile politics once again in widespread armed violence.
The protests are aimed at the green zone – officially known as the international zone – which serves as the hub of Iraq’s government and houses international missions behind thick layers of security.
It is the second time in a week that the tightly controlled area has been stormed. Metro.co.uk has asked the Foreign Office if British staff working in the zone have been evacuated.
Sadr’s party was the largest after October’s election, but he failed to form a government, refusing to work with his Shi’ite rivals and accusing them of ties to Iran.
He has previously threatened to incite popular unrest if a government he opposes is formed and has campaigned on an anti-corruption and anti-foreign influence platform.
Critics accuse him of using his influence to enrich himself and say he is only interested in power on his own terms.
Iraq has been without a president and prime minister for 10 months due to the deadlock in parliament.
Today’s unrest comes amid signs that the coalition framework, the loose grouping of parties opposing Sadr led by former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, is moving closer to striking a deal.
With tensions high in Baghdad, Sadr’s rivals called on their supporters to take to the streets and protest against the occupation of the parliament building.
Fearing violent clashes, the United Nations called for de-escalation, saying in a statement: ‘Voices of reason and wisdom are critical to prevent further violence.’
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Iraq on the brink of chaos after protesters storm the Baghdad Parliament
Source link Iraq on the brink of chaos after protesters storm the Baghdad Parliament