Iraqi protesters storm Green Zone again

Anti-government protesters storm Baghdad's Green Zone, 20 MayImage copyright

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The Green Zone is a heavily fortified area of Baghdad

Security forces in Iraq fired tear gas and live bullets when anti-government protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone for the second time this month.

Several people were wounded.

The demonstrators, mostly supporters of Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr, are angry at delays in tackling corruption and failures to provide security.

Some protesters tried to storm the prime minister’s office and Baghdad authorities have declared a curfew.

The curfew will remain in place until further notice, state TV reports.

The protesters accuse the government of neglecting much-needed reforms, as it struggles with its campaign against the so-called Islamic State group (IS) and declining oil revenues.

The Sunni jihadist group controls parts of western and northern Iraq and has been behind a wave of recent attacks that have left dozens killed.

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The protesters say they are angry at government delays in implementing reform

Earlier this month, hundreds of demonstrators knocked down concrete blast walls and broke into the parliament building.

The Green Zone area of Baghdad houses parliament, key government buildings and many foreign embassies.

Who is Moqtada Sadr?

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The Shia cleric and his militia group, the Mehdi Army, gained prominence after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. galvanising anti-US sentiment.

Mr Sadr’s followers clashed repeatedly with US forces, whose withdrawal the cleric consistently demanded.

An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Sadr in 2004 in connection with the murder of a rival cleric.

His militia was also blamed for the torture and killing of thousands of Sunnis in the sectarian carnage of 2006 and 2007. Mr Sadr fled to Iran during that period.

In 2011, Mr Sadr returned from his self-imposed exile to Iraq, taking a more conciliatory tone and calling for Iraqi unity and peace.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. who came to power in 2014, has promised to stamp out corruption and ease sectarian tensions.

Iraq’s system of sharing government jobs has long been criticised for promoting unqualified candidates and encouraging corruption.

The government is carefully balanced between party and religious loyalties but the country ranks 161st of 168 on corruption watchdog Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index.

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