BAGHDAD — Hundreds of supporters of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone and entered the parliament building after MPs failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government.
The dissenters, who had gathered outside the heavily fortified district housing government buildings and many foreign embassies, crossed a bridge over the Tigris River chanting: “The cowards ran away!”
It was an apparent reference to MPs leaving parliament, a witness said.
A guard at a checkpoint said the protesters had not been searched before entering.
About ten members of the armed group loyal to Mr Sadr were checking protesters cursorily as government security forces, who usually conduct careful searches with bomb-sniffing dogs, stood by the side, the witness said.
The protesters, who had gathered outside the heavily fortified district housing government buildings and many foreign embassies, crossed a bridge over the Tigris River chanting: “The cowards ran away!”
Supporters of Mr Sadr, whose fighters once controlled swathes of Baghdad and helped defend the capital from Islamic State, have been demonstrating for weeks at the gates of the Green Zone, responding to their leader’s call to pressure the government to reform.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wants to replace some ministers — chosen to balance Iraq’s divisions along party, ethnic and sectarian lines — with technocrats in order to combat corruption, but political parties have resisted the changes.
Mr Abadi has warned that any delay to the vote could hamper the war against Islamic State, which controls vast swathes of northern and western Iraq.
Rudaw TV showed protesters chanting and taking selfies inside the parliament chamber where moments earlier lawmakers had been meeting.
The Green Zone unrest kicked off minutes after powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wrapped up a news conference in the holy Shiite city of Najaf during which he condemned the political deadlock.
Last month he had threatened that his supporters would storm the Green Zone, but he did not order them to enter the area in his Saturday address.
PM congratulates Nepali national cricket team
KATHMANDU— Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has congratulated Nepali national cricket team for being able to clinch the International T20 series.
PM Oli in a tweet extended best wishes and congratulations saying he was very happy to know Nepal’s win over the UAE by 14 runs in the third match of the series.
Winning T20 series is another landmark success for Nepali cricket, he said, adding, “It is big achievement for Nepal’s cricket. I would like to heartily congratulate entire members of Nepali cricket squad”.