Protesters storm Parliament in Baghdad’s ‘Green Zone’

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Iraqi protesters climb over a concrete wall surrounding the parliament (unseen) after breaking into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" on Saturday. (AFP)
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FREE-FOR-ALL: Protesters throw stones at a vehicle they believe belongs to a lawmaker as they gather outside Parliament after breaking into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2016

Protesters storm Parliament in Baghdad’s ‘Green Zone’

BAGHDAD: Thousands of angry protesters broke into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday and stormed the Iraqi Parliament building after lawmakers again failed to approve new ministers.

Jubilant supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr invaded the main session hall, shouting slogans glorifying their leader and claiming that they had rooted out corruption.
The Iraqi capital was already on high alert for a major Shiite pilgrimage, participants in which were targeted in a bombing that killed 23 on Saturday, but extra security measures were taken after protesters stormed the Green Zone.
“You are not staying here! This is your last day in the Green Zone,” shouted one protester as thousands broke in.
Besides the Parliament compound, the restricted area in central Baghdad houses the presidential palace, the prime minister’s office and several embassies, including those of the United States and Britain.
Protesters attached cables to the tops of heavy concrete blast walls that surround the Green Zone, pulling them down to create an opening, an AFP journalist said.
They then headed to Parliament, where some rampaged through the building and broke into offices, while other protesters shouted “peacefully, peacefully” and tried to contain the destruction, another reporter said.
Security forces were present but did not try to prevent the demonstrators from entering the Parliament building, the reporter said.
Protesters pulled barbed wire across a road leading to one of the exits of the Green Zone, effectively preventing some scared lawmakers from fleeing the chaos.
They also attacked and damaged several vehicles they believed belonged to lawmakers.
Inside the main hall where lawmakers failed to reach a quorum earlier in the day, protesters sat in the MPs’ seats taking “selfies” and shouting slogans.
One protester called a friend on his mobile: “I am sitting in (Parliament speaker) Salim Al-Juburi’s chair, I have a meeting, we’ll talk later.”
We are the ones running this country now, the time of the corrupt is over, said another protester, as crowds filled rooms throughout the building.
Parliament failed to reach a quorum on Saturday after approving some of Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s ministerial nominees earlier in the week.
The Green Zone unrest kicked off as Sadr ended a news conference in the holy Shiite city of Najaf during which he condemned the political deadlock.
He had threatened to have his supporters storm the Green Zone last month, but did not order them to enter the area in his Saturday address.
The politicians “refused to end corruption and refused to end quotas,” Sadr said, adding that he and his supporters would not participate in “any political process in which there are any type... of political party quotas.”
Key government posts have for years been shared out based on political and sectarian quotas, a practice demonstrators want to end.
According to officials in the interior ministry, the main entrances to Baghdad were temporarily closed.
Special security measures were also taken around sensitive sites in the capital, including the central bank and the international airport.
Security forces had already been on high alert across Baghdad as tens of thousands of Shiites converged on the city for an annual commemoration.

Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

Pro-government drive in an industrial district in the eastern outskirts of the port city Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018

Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

  • Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday
  • UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week

SANAA: Iran-backed Houthi militias have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeidah, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.

Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday, apparently getting ready to head toward Hodeidah, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.

Men, some of whom looked very young, were lining up with bandoliers around their shoulders and rifles in their hands, chanting Houthi slogans.

Residents said on Sunday that relative calm had held in Hodeidah city since pro-government forces announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a cease-fire and UN-led peace efforts.  They added, however, that they remain on edge.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets on Sunday carried out a series of strikes targeting Houthi positions west of Marib. The strikes, which were accompanied by shelling, came after the Iranian-supported militia launched ballistic missiles toward the city of Marib. Coalition forces successfully intercepted the missiles, Yemeni army media said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Houthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive in Hodeidah.

Griffiths said on Friday that both the government and the Houthis have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution and have given “firm assurances” that they will attend the talks. No date has yet been set.