Protesters loyal to Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Friday for the second time in just under a month, multiple outlets are reporting.
The protesters, many of them masked, have apparently managed to break into Iraq’s parliament, and are raiding the office of Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Iraqi authorities have implemented a mandatory curfew in response to the breach, and have reportedly shut down all entrances into the capitol.
— Abdulla Hawez (@abdullahawez) May 20, 2016
— Dr. Abbas Kadhim (@DrAbbasKadhim) May 20, 2016
Protesters are demanding reforms that would replace a political class selected according to Iraqis’ sect and ethnicity – a “quota system” implemented by the US-led coalition after the invasion – with technocrats chosen solely for their professional qualifications.
Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live bullets at the protesters, according to a Reuters witness and live video, and dozens have reportedly been injured.
Situation slipping out of control in #Baghdad. Heavily-armed militias on maximum state of alert. Some already deployed. Curfew imposed.
— Ahmed Maher (@AhmedMaherBBC) May 20, 2016
Constant crack of gunfire and booms of tear gas canisters being fired right now in #Baghdad
— Loveday Morris (@LovedayM) May 20, 2016
The Reuters witness said some protesters had tried to reach the cabinet building but were stopped at the gate. They chanted: “Oh army, the country is hurt! Don’t side with the corrupt!”
Iraq’s military said Friday evening, local time, that authorities had regained “complete control over the riots.”
“Infiltrators exploited our forces’ preoccupation with preparations for the Falluja battle to infiltrate state institutions and cause chaos,” a statement from the Joint Operations Command said.