Hundreds of supporters of Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stormed the Iraqi parliament in protest at MPs’ failure to convene for a vote on overhauling the government.
Amid what appeared to be a festive atmosphere, some chanted “the cowards ran away!” in reference to the absent lawmakers.
They have been demonstrating for weeks, heeding their leader’s call to put pressure on the prime minister to act on promises of reform.
Earlier, the protesters broke into the heavily-fortified Green Zone housing government buildings including the parliament, as well as foreign embassies. Western compounds were locked down.
A guard at a checkpoint said the protesters were not searched before entering – although an armed group loyal to Sadr was said to have made some rudimentary checks.
Sadr’s fighters once controlled significant parts of the city and helped defend it from the so-called Islamic State.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wants to replace some ministers – chosen to balance Iraq’s divisions – with technocrats to combat corruption. But political parties have resisted the changes.
The protests followed parliament’s failure to complete a vote approving a planned ministerial reshuffle, designed to combat corruption.
“We are here to put pressure on the politicians because they are not honest, we demand a true stance by them to serve the Iraqi people,” said Hakem Radi, one of the protesters.
Elsewhere, around 20 people were killed in a Baghdad suburb when a suicide bomber struck a gathering of Shi’ite pilgrims in an attack claimed by Sunni militants.
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