At least four people were killed and 90 injured among anti-corruption protesters who stormed Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Friday, hospital sources said on Saturday. Iraqi security forces used live and rubber bullets as well as tear gas to dislodge the protesters from the district that houses government buildings, parliament, and embassies. It was the second such protest in a month in the Green Zone. Protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament three weeks earlier.
The toll, compiled from four hospitals where casualties were taken as well as Baghdad's central morgue, accounts for bullet wounds only, not cases of suffocation caused by tear gas. Some security personnel were also stabbed, according to a military statement.
The government briefly imposed a curfew on Baghdad, and authorities later said order had returned after what they called rioting.
«Infiltrators exploited our forces' preoccupation with preparations for the Fallujah battle to penetrate state institutions and cause chaos,» the military said, referring to a city 30 miles west of Baghdad controlled by Islamic State for more than two years.
Protesters occupied the cabinet building for several hours. Some held Iraqi flags and flashed peace signs near the insignia of the prime minister's press office and inside a meeting room.
The protesters eventually withdrew to Tahrir Square, but witnesses said security forces and unidentified gunmen opened fire there as well.
A military statement said riot police were «dealing with anyone trying to damage state institutions in accordance with the law».
Footage shows thousands of protesters storming the Green Zone in Baghdad. Near the end of the video (around the 19:30 mark), protesters can be seen in a meeting room, described by the uploader as located in the prime minister's building. At several points in the video sounds resembling gunfire are heard.
Protesters included supporters of powerful Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and people from other groups upset with the government's failure to approve anti-corruption reforms and improve security against bombings by Islamic State militants.
The government briefly imposed a curfew on Baghdad on Friday and authorities later said that order had returned after what they called rioting at the Green Zone.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, in a late-night speech, condemned the Green Zone breach and warned against chaos and strife: «The law must take its course with every transgressor.»
Sadr expressed support for what he called a «peaceful spontaneous revolt» and condemned the government for «killing its children in cold blood.»
Funerals for the deceased were held across Baghdad on Saturday. At one ceremony in the Sadr City neighborhood, coffins draped with Iraqi flags were driven down the street, followed by a procession of mourners.
One man riding with the coffins, Salim Haider, told Reuters he lost his nephew.
«He's still young,» he said. «All he did was protest with the people calling on the government to solve our corruption issues.»