Iraqi protesters have announced their withdrawal from Baghdad's Green Zone after storming parliament a day earlier. The protesters have vowed to return by the end of the week if nothing changes.
The statement announcing the temporary end to their mass demonstration was announced on Sunday by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's office, whose supporters make up the vast majority of the demonstrators.
"The protest organizing committee announces the withdrawal of the demonstrators from the Green Zone," the statement said, citing respect for a major Shiite pilgrimage as the reason for their departure.
A spokeswoman for the protesters said in a televised speech, however, that if none of the demands were met, they would resort to "all legitimate means," including civil disobedience. A protest has already been planned for Friday.
Protest against corruption
Following announcements over loudspeakers on Sunday, demonstrators were seen filing out of the Green Zone in an orderly manner.
The withdrawal of the demonstrators came just a day after al-Sadr's followers tore down walls and poured into the Green Zone and storming parliament, where tear gas was reportedly used against some protestors.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the arrest of protesters who attacked security forces, lawmakers and damaged properties of state institutions. On Sunday, however, security forces were not taking action against protesters inside the Green Zone.
Setting up camp in the heavily-guarded area marked a culmination of months of sit-ins and protests calling for an overhaul of Iraq's political system, which is widely seen as corrupt and ineffectual.
The Green Zone
The 10-square-kilometer zone once housed the US headquarters of the occupation force that entered Iraq in 2003. Prior to that, the headquarters building was the palace of deposed leader Saddam Hussein.
The compound is off-limits to the vast majority of Iraqis, prompting allegations from al-Sadr that the government is detached from the people.
The crisis in Iraq comes as Baghdad struggles to address an economic crisis - largely brought on by lower oil prices - and to fight the "Islamic State" (IS), which still controls large areas in the north and west.
Just hours before protesters began leaving the Green Zone on Sunday, Iraqi officials said at least 23 people were killed and dozens wounded after IS militants detonated two explosives-laden cars in the city of Samawah, some 230 kilometers (145 miles) south of Baghdad. A day earlier, at least 23 Shiite faithful were killed by another car bomb, also close to the capital.
ksb/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)