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Iraqi PM orders arrest of protesters who stormed parliament

Haidar Mohammed Ali, AFP | Iraqi protesters open a breach in a concrete wall surrounding the parliament after breaking into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" on April 30, 2016

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday ordered police to arrest protesters who broke into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and attacked security forces and lawmakers as they stormed the country’s parliament.

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The prime minister’s statement comes a day after hundreds of angry anti-government followers of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr tore down blast walls and poured into the parliament building when MPs once again failed to approve new cabinet ministers to replace the current party-affiliated cabinet.

According to the statement, Abadi had "directed the interior minister to pursue the elements who attacked the security forces and citizens and members of parliament and vandalised state properties and to refer them to the judiciary to receive their just punishment".

On Sunday, the situation appeared to be relatively calm, with some protesters touring the area and taking photos.

"This is the first time I've been here since I came with my school under Saddam (Hussein)," said 32-year-old Yusef al-Assadi, who took a "selfie" in front of the Unknown Soldier's monument.

"It's one of the most beautiful places to be in Baghdad. It should be for everyone, yet the people were not allowed here," he said.

Assadi said it was striking "how rich this place is. Here, there is air conditioning and electricity everywhere, but the people of Iraq suffer from power cuts all the time".

Many Iraqi politicians live in luxury, while most average citizens make do with abysmal services that include only a few hours of government-provided electricity per day at the height of summer.

During Saturday’s protests, at least one MP was attacked as well as cars believed to belong to lawmakers. Offices in parliament were also broken into, and furniture was vandalised.

Others sought to contain the destruction, however. Many were content to take photographs of themselves in parliament, with some sitting in seats usually occupied by lawmakers.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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