Security forces fired tear gas and live bullets on Friday at protesters who stormed into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, according to a Reuters witness and live video.
Witnesses said dozens of people were injured. The protesters included supporters of powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and people from other groups who are displeased with the government’s failure to approve anti-corruption reforms and provide security.
The Reuters witness said the 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!”
Sadr supporters protesting Parliament’s failure to approve a nonpolitical cabinet also stormed the Green Zone on April 30 in an unprecedented breach of the central district, which houses Parliament, government buildings and many foreign embassies.
They have added to their grievances the government’s failure to provide security after a wave of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group in the Iraqi capital this month that killed more than 150 people. Sadr did not explicitly call for Friday’s demonstration.
Iraq’s political crisis broke out in February, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced plans to appoint a cabinet of independent technocrats, threatening to uproot a system of political patronage that makes the public administration open to corruption.
He has warned that the impasse could hamper Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State group, which continues to control territory in northern and western Iraq.
Sadr, the heir of a revered clerical dynasty, says he backs Abadi’s plan and has accused other political groups of blocking the reforms due to their own vested interests.