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    Iraqi protesters breach Parliament building

    BAGHDAD (AP) – Hundreds of followers of an influential Shiite cleric have breached Iraq’s Parliament yesterday for a second time this week to protest the government formation efforts lead by Iran-backed groups.

    Iraqi security forces used tear gas and sound bombs to try to repel the demonstrators. An expected Parliament session did not take place and there were no lawmakers in the hall.

    Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi directed security forces to protect demonstrators and asked them to keep their protest peaceful.

    Iraqi security forces hurled gas canisters and used sound bombs to disperse the thousands of Iraqi demonstrators, the followers of an influential cleric, in the heavily fortified government zone of the capital yesterday.

    One by one, demonstrators used ropes to pull down cement barricades leading to the gate of Iraq’s Green Zone, which houses official buildings and foreign embassies. They had come to protest the formation of the next government by Iran-backed parties.

    Security forces used gas canisters and sound bombs to repel the protesters as they approached the Parliament building. Journalists for The Associated Press (AP) saw several people injured. A regular parliament session was expected.

    “We came today to remove the corrupt political class and prevent them from holding a parliament session, and to prevent the framework from forming a government,” said Raad Thabet, 41. “We responded to al-Sadr’s call. We will go to the Green (Zone). No matter the cost.”

    The protesters are followers of influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who called for the demonstrations against the formation of the next government by Iran-backed political groups.

    Al-Sadr’s party exited government formation talks in June, giving his rivals in the Coordination Framework alliance the majority they needed to move forward with the process.

    Protesters try to remove concrete barriers and cross the bridge towards the Green Zone area in Baghdad, Iraq. PHOTO: AP
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