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Protesters vacate Iraqi Parliament Building but leave much damage behind

By News Express on 02/05/2016

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Baghdad is largely back to normal after it teetered on the edge of political chaos. Anti-government protesters who had taken over the Iraqi parliament building disbanded in a mostly peaceful fashion as loud speaker announcements urged them to leave.

On Saturday, protesters led by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr crowded the streets in front of the country’s parliament and poured into the heavily secured Green Zone, or International Zone (IZ), which is home to the Iraqi government building and several foreign embassies.

Protesters, who had done major damage inside the parliament building during the day-long standoff, packed up their bags and carried flags with them as they left peacefully Sunday. After the protesters left, families were seen walking through the compound, swimming in a fountain and taking pictures of the well-manicured gardens.

Iraqi lawmakers flee

Lawmakers fled Saturday after protesters 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. AFP Photo shows Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (left) looking at the damage after protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone area, May 1, 2016.

Source News Express

Posted 02/05/2016 11:26:49 AM

 

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