After weeks of ongoing protests, supporters of Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have set up camp inside Baghdad's Green Zone. The protesters are calling for more transparent government.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi claimed Baghdad's fortified Green Zone was again "under control of security forces" six hours after followers of the influential Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed parliament's main session hall on Saturday.
The demonstrators did eventually move away from the parliament building and occupied Ihtifalat Square. It is also inside the Green Zone, which houses embassies and government buildings in a secure area.
Parliament's speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, condemned the protest, describing it as aggression against "state prestige."
The unrest began Saturday after al-Sadr again condemned Iraq's political stalemate during an appearance on television. He was in the southern city of Najaf and warned that the government would fall if reforms were not made.
At the same time, al-Abadi was foiled by parliament's failure to assemble with a quorum to approve some of his reformist, technocrat nominees.
Challenge to the PM
Earlier this month, lawmakers shouted insults and called the Prime Minister's leadership illegitimate.
During Saturday's break-in, tear gas was reportedly used against some protestors. They were also seen fraternizing with security forces, reportedly a combination of government personnel and militiamen attached to the cleric al-Sadr.
Sharqiya television showed al-Abadi under guard walking through the Green Zone, negating reports that he had fled.
United Nations officials and Western diplomats inside the zone said their compounds were locked down. A US embassy spokesman denied reports of an evacuation.
Green Zone history
The 10-square-kilometer zone once housed the US headquarters of the occupation force that entered Iraq in 2003. It was, before that, 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.
Earlier on Saturday, hard-line Sunni militants claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a gathering of Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad's southeastern suburb of Nahrawan. The blast killed 19 people and left 48 others wounded.
ipj/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)