Baghdad, May 21 (IANS) Hundreds of anti-corruption protesting followers of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday started withdrawal from the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, after 58 of them were wounded by tear gas and live bullets by the security forces.
The demonstrators started in the evening their withdrawal from the Green Zone, which houses the government offices and some foreign embassies, after they broke into the restricted district for more than two hours in the afternoon, a police source told Xinhua.
The protesters moved from the government zone and crossed two nearby bridges on Tigris River to gather again in Tahrir Square on the eastern side of the stream, as they were chanting slogans against corrupt politicians and officials.
A statement issued by the Joint Operations Command said “the security forces are in full control of the Green Zone after the unfortunate events,” after large military reinforcements arrived to the government zone.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of Sadr’s followers crossed security barriers on Jamhouriyah Bridge and marched to a main gate of the Green Zone, while the security forces guarding the government zone opened fire in the air and fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Despite the fierce resistance from the security forces guarding the main gates of the Green Zone, the demonstrators managed to enter the prime minister’s compound, including his own office, while dozens others entered many surrounding government offices.
An interior ministry source said that at least 58 people were wounded by the live bullets and tear gas.
Meanwhile, Baghdad Operations Command, responsible for the security in the Iraqi capital, announced curfew in Baghdad city until further notice, while security measures were intensified and the troops blocked the entrances of Baghdad, the source said.
Late last month, Sadr followers broke into the government zone and occupied the parliament building, but pulled out to give time for the political parties to agree on reforms demanded by the protesters.
A series of failed reform measures have paralysed the Iraqi authorities as the country struggles to fight the Islamic State terrorist group, which seizes swathes of territories in northern and western Iraq.