Shi’ite Rebellion: Iraq Parliament collapses, lawmakers flee, military on high alert

Posted by News Express | 1 May 2016 | 2,919 times

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Baghdad teetered on the edge of political chaos Sunday. The city is in a state of emergency, protesters have occupied parts of the once-secure International Zone (IZ), lawmakers have run away and the military is on high alert.

Protesters led by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have crowded the streets in front of the country’s now-empty Parliament and gathered in what is known as the Zone’s “Celebration Square.” By Sunday evening, the protesters temporarily ended their demonstration and started to withdraw from the area.

A statement from Sadr’s office said the move was made out of respect for a major Shi’ite pilgrimage.

Lawmakers fled Saturday after protestors stormed into the parliament.

About 60 lawmakers, mostly from the minority Kurdish and Sunni parties, flew out of the capital for Irbil and Suleymania, in the northern autonomous Kurdish region.

“It was dangerous for all of us,” one parliament official told VOA, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Some lawmakers were beaten, he said.

The official said thousands of protesters were still in the so-called International Zone Sunday, parked outside the major government buildings.

Normally only those with special badges are allowed into the secured area, which is also home to many foreign embassies and the United Nations.

“It is dangerous,” the parliament official said. “At any time, the protesters could attack any embassy, any institution they want, or abuse anybody passing by.

“It seems al-Sadr wants to keep them inside the IZ so he can force the government to do what he wants,” the official said.

The parliament takeover was the culmination of weeks of political wrangling and increasing instability, and came just days after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the visit was a good indication of U.S. continued support for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to unify Iraq and confront the Islamic State (IS) group.

But the visit was not enough to stave off the deepening political crisis.

Sadr has been demanding a new government of technocrats.

Abadi, who had also promised reform, had been unable to deliver any real change as political parties, unwilling to let go of their political power, blocked the majority of his list of candidates.

The prime minister on Sunday walked through the ransacked parliament building, and called on Interior Minister Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban to bring the attackers “to justice.”

Deadly violence also continued in Iraq Sunday, with Islamic State claiming responsibility for bombings that killed more than 30 people in the southern city of Samawah

Excerpted from a VOA report. Photo by Reuters shows supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr after storming the Iraqi parliament on Saturday.


Source: News Express

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