Iraq Protesters Storm Green Zone
Al-Sadr followers pulled down walls, entered parliament
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 30, 2016 8:20 AM CDT
Iraqi security forces guard the heavily fortified Green Zone as followers of Iraq's influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather.   (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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(Newser) – Hundreds of protesters climbed over the blast walls surrounding Baghdad's highly-fortified Green Zone for the first time on Saturday and stormed into parliament, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government. The breach marked a major escalation in the country's political crisis following months of anti-government protests, sit-ins, and demonstrations by supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the AP reports. The Green Zone is home to most ministries and foreign embassies and has long been the focus of al-Sadr's criticism of the government. Earlier Saturday, al-Sadr accused Iraqi politicians of blocking political reforms aimed at combating corruption and waste.

While al-Sadr didn't call for an escalation to the protests, shortly after his remarks his supporters began scaling the compound's walls. A group of young men then pulled down a section of concrete blast walls to cheers from the crowd of thousands gathered in the streets outside. Cellphone video uploaded to social media showed dozens of young men running through the halls of parliament, chanting slogans in support of al-Sadr and calling for the government to disband. Hours earlier, a bombing in a market filled with Shiite civilians in Baghdad killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 42 others, according to police and hospital officials. ISIS claimed the attack, saying it used a three-ton truck bomb.