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Protesters Storm Green Zone in Baghdad

For the first time, Baghdad's Green Zone has been breached by protesters.

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Hundreds of protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone Saturday, the first time the safe area had been penetrated by angry Iraqis.

Supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had been protesting the Iraqi government for months, staging sit-ins and demonstrations. But Saturday’s actions mark a steep escalation; the Green Zone is home to most Iraqi government buildings and foreign embassies.

The breach of the Green Zone was preceded by comments from al-Sadr earlier Saturday, in which he accused Iraqi politicians of blocking reforms to stop waste and corruption. He didn’t call for supporters to escalate their demonstrations, but soon after he spoke, protesters stormed the compound’s walls and pulled a section of it down. Videos of the breach are below:

Hundreds of protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone Saturday, the first time the safe area had been penetrated by angry Iraqis.

Supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had been protesting the Iraqi government for months, staging sit-ins and demonstrations. But Saturday’s actions mark a steep escalation; the Green Zone is home to most Iraqi government buildings and foreign embassies.

The breach of the Green Zone was preceded by comments from al-Sadr earlier Saturday, in which he accused Iraqi politicians of blocking reforms to stop waste and corruption. He didn’t call for supporters to escalate their demonstrations, but soon after he spoke, protesters stormed the compound’s walls and pulled a section of it down. Videos of the breach are below:

The storming of the Green Zone is the culmination of weeks of political protests against the Iraqi government. Demonstrators entered the parliament building, where some broke into offices, while other protesters shouted “peacefully, peacefully” and tried to contain the chaos, according to AFP. Iraqi security forces were present, but did not try to stop the protesters.

The riots follow a car bomb that exploded earlier Saturday at a market in Nahrawan, east of Baghdad. The Islamic State claimed credit for the attack, which left at least 24 people killed and as many as 38 wounded.

It also comes as Iraqi government plans to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State have become bogged down in sectarian and ethnic rivalries.

Photo credit: HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/Getty Images

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