Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi desperately tried to steer his country out of political turmoil on Tuesday, partially reshuffling his cabinet amid stepped-up pressure as thousands of protesters threatened to storm parliament.

The demonstrators, answering a call from the outspoken Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, had gathered at the gates of Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, where parliament is located, demanding a new government. Women and children in the crowd were sent home as organizers said they would break through its perimeter if reforms were not enacted.

The political unrest has brought a new level of instability to a country that is facing multiple crises, including the fight against the Islamic State militant group and the struggling economy. The United Nations has warned that the upheaval would further embolden the militants.

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