Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Kareem Raheem and Stephen Kalin / Reuters – 2016-05-21 00:59:39
Troops Open Fire as Baghdad Protesters Storm Green Zone
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 20, 2016) — It’s Friday, it’s Iraq, and there’s still no vote on the cabinet nominated over a month ago. That means mass protests, and as with recent weeks, the rallies centered around the walled-off Green Zone, with many protesters forcing their way in, and some said to enter the prime minister’s office.
Iraqi military and police forces, which had been massed in the Green Zone since the last time protesters forced their way in, responded with tear gas and live ammunition, wounding at least 58 and according to some reports killing several civilians.
The government also imposed a city-wide curfew until further notice, and while reports were that by the evening the protesters had left the Green Zone, the capital remains on lock-down, adding further to the unrest in the city.
Key Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been backing the protests for months, condemned the use of live ammunition against the demonstrators, declaring “curse the government that kills its children in cold blood.”
Protesters Storm Baghdad’s
Green Zone Again, Dozens Hurt
Kareem Raheem and Stephen Kalin / Reuters
BAGHDAD (May 20, 2016) — Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters who stormed into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Friday and entered the cabinet building, drawing calls for revolt from a powerful Shi’ite Muslim cleric.
Dozens of demonstrators were injured by tear gas and live fire, witnesses said. Some security personnel were stabbed, according to a military statement. Authorities could not immediately verify reports that several civilians had been killed.
The thousands of protesters included supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and people from other groups upset with the government’s failure to approve anti-corruption reforms and provide security.
The government briefly imposed a curfew on Baghdad and authorities later said order had returned after what they called rioting at the Green Zone, which houses parliament, government buildings and many foreign embassies.
“Infiltrators exploited our forces’ preoccupation with preparations for the Falluja battle to penetrate state institutions and cause chaos,” the military said, referring to a city 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad controlled by Islamic State for more than two years.
Protesters occupied the cabinet building for several hours. Some held Iraqi flags and flashed peace signs near the insignia of the prime minister’s press office and inside a meeting room.
The protesters eventually withdrew to Tahrir Square, but witnesses said security forces and unidentified gunmen opened fire there as well.
A military statement said riot police were “dealing with anyone trying to damage state institutions in accordance with the law”.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the Green Zone breach and warned against chaos and strife in a late-night televised speech, saying: “The law must take its course with every transgressor.”
Sadr expressed support for what he called a “peaceful spontaneous revolt” and condemned the government for “killing its children in cold blood”.
His supporters, protesting parliament’s failure to approve a non-political cabinet, also breached the Green Zone on April 30, storming the assembly complex and attacking officials before holding a 24-hour sit-in at a nearby square.
Parliament has not convened since then, crippling government as it grapples with an economic crisis brought on by low oil prices and an Islamist insurgency that constitutes the biggest security threat to the OPEC oil producer since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The protesters on Friday added to their grievances the authorities’ failure to maintain security following a wave of bombings claimed by Islamic State this month in Baghdad which killed more than 150 people.
Sadr did not explicitly call for Friday’s demonstration, where protesters chanted: “Oh army, the country is hurt! Don’t side with the corrupt!”
Iraq’s political crisis goes back to plans announced by Prime Minister Abadi in February to replace politically affiliated ministers with independent technocrats. Despite backing from the Shi’ite religious establishment, the proposal threatens to uproot a system of political patronage that makes for a public administration rife with corruption and has faced stiff resistance.
Abadi has warned the impasse was undermining Baghdad’s security and could hamper Iraq’s fight against Islamic State, which continues to control territory in the north and west.
Sadr, the heir of a revered clerical dynasty, says he backs the premier’s plan and has accused other political groups of blocking the reforms to protect vested interests.
(Additional reporting by Saif Hameed and Maher Chmaytelli; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Ralph Boulton and James Dalgleish)
Iraq’s Sadr Condemns Use of
Force against Green Zone Protesters
Kareem Raheem and Saif Hameed / Reuters
(May 20, 2016) — Iraq’s powerful Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr expressed support for protesters who stormed into Baghdad’s Green Zone on Friday and condemned security forces’ use of force against them. “I respect your choice and your peaceful spontaneous revolt,” Sadr said in a statement. “Curse the government that kills its children in cold blood.”
Witnesses said earlier that dozens of people were wounded when the security forces fired tear gas and bullets at the protesters.
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