Iraqi officials declared a state of emergency for all of Baghdad on Saturday after protesters loyal to popular Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr breached the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign embassies, including the American one.
“Iraq security authorities have declared a state of emergency in Baghdad,” said Brig. Gen. Saad Mann, a spokesman for the Iraqi military. “All gates that lead to Baghdad are closed. No one is allowed to enter into Baghdad, only those who want to leave Baghdad can do so.”
Hundreds of demonstrators occupied the country’s parliament, according to a senior Iraqi security source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Video from inside the building showed jubilant crowds waving Iraqi flags and shouting “peaceful, peaceful.” The were no immediate reports of major violence. Parliament is not currently in session.
Supporters of Sadr, whose fighters once controlled swathes of Baghdad and helped defend the capital from ISIS, have been demonstrating for weeks at the gates of the Green Zone, responding to their leader’s call to pressure the government to reform. Saturday was the first time the protesters breached the compound’s walls.
Sadr called on his followers to leave the Parliament building and instead start a sit-in in the Grand Festivities Square, which is also inside the Green Zone.
PHOTOS: Protesters Topple Walls, Storm Parliament
Read More: NBC
Featured Image – Followers of Iraq’s Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gather in the parliament building as they storm Baghdad’s Green Zone after lawmakers failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government on April 30. AHMED SAAD / Reuters – NBC
Featured Media – Associated Press
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