Heavy security, few protesters in central Baghdad

Heavy security, few protesters in central Baghdad
Riot police and armoured vehicles keep protesters away from the Green Zone, Iraq's restricted area in the heart of Baghdad, after it was breached last week.
2 min read

A major demonstration failed to materialise in central Baghdad Friday as Iraq deployed riot police and armoured vehicles to keep protesters away from the Green Zone, which they breached last week.

Only a few dozen demonstrators turned out in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, and they did not challenge the riot police blocking them from heading toward the fortified Green Zone area.

Protesters had threatened to return to the restricted area in the heart of Baghdad, as they did on April 30 when they stormed parliament in anger at lawmakers' failure to approve new ministers.

Riot police were deployed behind barbed wire across Jumhuriyah Bridge, the route leading from Tahrir to the Green Zone, and an Iraqi military helicopter flew low over the area.

The bridge was also blocked by slabs of heavy concrete blast walls, with security forces and armoured vehicles positioned behind them.

Ibrahim al-Jabiri, an official from protest organising cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's office in east Baghdad, claimed the demonstrators were giving parliament a chance to meet again.

"We are waiting for a session of parliament, and this is a chance that we gave to the government," he told AFP.

Last week, protesters stormed parliament after MPs again failed to approve nominees for a cabinet of technocrats to replace the government of party-affiliated ministers.

The plan was proposed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whom the protesters ostensibly support, although their security breach last week undermined the embattled premier.

Parliament could meet again on Tuesday, although it is not clear that the proposed reshuffle would win more support.

Small groups of Sadr supporters gathered in various parts of the capital and elsewhere in the country after Friday prayers to reiterate their demands.

Abadi made a televised address on Thursday warning protesters not to break the law, after sacking the commander of special forces in the Green Zone the day before.

Security forces largely stood by last week as protesters broke into the fortified area that also houses the prime minister's office and several other key institutions and major embassies.