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Baghdad: More than 100 injured in clashes as demonstrators storm Iraq’s parliament

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Baghdad: More than 100 injured in clashes as demonstrators storm Iraq’s parliament

Although security forces used tear gas and water cannon to disperse them, angry demonstrators loyal to powerful cleric Muqtada al-Sadr broke into the secure area where the government building is located.

Protesters then stormed parliament, the Iraqi state news agency INA reported. Video circulating on social media appeared to show people waving Iraqi flags past security guards at the parliamentary gate.

At least 125 people were injured, including 100 civilians and 25 soldiers, according to the country’s health ministry.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) described the recent escalation in tensions as “deeply worrying”.

“A voice of reason and wisdom is essential to prevent further violence. All actors are encouraged to de-escalate in the interest of all Iraqis,” UNAMI tweeted.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa Kadimi urged protesters to “be calm, patient and rational” in a televised address on Saturday.

“We all have to work together to stop those who accelerate this problem, and everyone has to be very clear that fanning the flames will burn everyone,” Kadimi said.

The prime minister said it was possible to solve problems through constructive dialogue, saying: “The dilemma is political, its solution is political, through sincere and constructive dialogue and concessions for the interests of Iraq and Iraqis, Solving the problem is possible.”

The protests began Monday after the largest Shiite coalition in Iraq’s parliament formally nominated Mohammad Shia al-Sudani to lead the country.

Demonstrators, seen here on July 30, broke through Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone for the second time this week.

His nomination follows the mass resignation of al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc, which consists of more than 70 lawmakers, who quit the governing body last month after months of political deadlock, apparently after Show force.

Iraq has struggled to form a new government since October’s parliamentary elections; Sadr’s own attempt to form a government had previously failed amid opposition from rival groups.

“If the Thaadist bloc still exists [in parliament] is an obstacle to the formation of a government, then all the legislators of the bloc are honorably prepared to resign from parliament,” Sadr said in a televised address in June.

The cleric, who has positioned himself against Iran and the United States, is very popular. His bloc’s success in the October vote threatened the marginalization of the Iran-aligned Shiite bloc that has long dominated politics in the oil-rich country.

Iraqi protesters storm parliament to denounce new PM's nomination

On Wednesday, Sadr told protesters at the parliament building that their “message” had been received and that they should go home.

“A revolution for reform that rejects injustice and corruption. Your message has been received. You terrified the corrupt. Pray and go home safe,” he tweeted.

Outgoing Prime Minister Kadimi’s government also issued a statement calling on Sadr protesters to “immediately withdraw from the Green Zone”, protect public and private property and obey the instructions of the security forces.

“Security forces will work to protect national institutions and international missions and prevent any disruption to security and order,” al-Kadhimi added.

Aqeel Najim reported from Baghdad, Hamdi Alkhshali from Atlanta and Eyad Kourdi from Gaziantep. Obaida Nafaa in Dubai and Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong contributed reporting. Ivana Kottasová writes in London.

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