Baghdad, May 20 (IANS) Hundreds of protesters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday broke into the office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the parliament building in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.
The demonstrators, demanding reforms, initially were met by fierce resistance from the security forces guarding the main gates of the Green Zone, where main government buildings and some foreign embassies were located, Xinhua reported.
Despite the heavy gunfire and tear gas used by the security forces to stop the protesters and to prevent them from spreading into the government zone, dozens of them entered the Prime Minister’s compound, including his own office, while dozens others entered the parliament building and surrounding government offices.
“So far at least 23 people were wounded by the gunfire and the tear gas,” a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Baghdad Operations Command (BOC), 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.
In the afternoon 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.
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 paralyzed Iraq’s parliament and the government as the country struggles to fight the Islamic State militant group, which seizes swathes of territories in northern and western Iraq. The country is also in dire need to respond to an economic crisis sparked in part by a plunge in global oil prices.