Rockets hit Baghdad for second day as Iraq unrest escalates

Four rockets landed around Iraqi government buildings, a day after an attempted storming of Iraq’s parliament.

Demonstrators clash with security force during an anti-government protest, after a parliament session, in Baghdad, Iraq September 28, 2022. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi supporters of religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr attempted to storm the Green Zone and the Iraqi parliament on Wednesday to stop a session from being held [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

Rockets have landed in Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, for the second day in a row, breaking weeks of calm.

No one has claimed responsibility for the four missiles fired from the east of the capital on Thursday morning, and there were no reported casualties, local police officers said.

On Wednesday, supporters of Iraq’s influential Shia religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr attempted to storm the Green Zone as the Iraqi parliament held a session on the resignation of its speaker. They tried to advance past security forces guarding the parliament but were confronted by riot police.

Iraqi state media also reported on Wednesday afternoon that three Katyusha rockets had fallen on the Green Zone.

Rocket attacks on the Green Zone have been common over the past few years, although there has been a reduction in the number of such attacks in recent months. Missiles are normally directed at Western targets by Iran-backed militia groups.

Iraq’s current political crisis stems from a dispute between al-Sadr, who commands the support of millions of Iraqis, and whose bloc came out on top in October’s parliamentary elections, and his rivals, the Coordination Framework.

While al-Sadr and the Coordination Framework are Shia, the latter is backed by Iran, whereas al-Sadr presents himself as an ‘Iraqi nationalist’ seeking to end Iran’s influence in the country, despite his own previous ties with Tehran.

Fighting broke out in August between militias supporting the two sides, killing more than 30 people in the worst violence Baghdad has seen for years.

The political crisis has left Iraq without a government, and al-Sadr has pulled his bloc out of parliament after failing to form one that excludes the Coordination Framework.

Now the Iran-backed bloc is attempting to take advantage of the absence of al-Sadr’s supporters from parliament to finally form a government, one of the main reasons for Wednesday’s confrontations.

Reporting from the area during the violence, Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem said that protesters had thrown stones at security forces.

“The speaker of the parliament is leaving the alliance with Muqtada al-Sadr and joining the rival alliance. People here are trying to prevent the parliament session from convening,” Hashem said.

“Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr feel betrayed right now because the rivals … are trying to form a new coalition,” he added. “A new prime minister will [eventually] be named and this is what they do not want.”

The Coordination Framework tried to have parliament approve a new prime minister in July, but was prevented from doing so after al-Sadr’s supporters stormed parliament.

Al-Sadr is now calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies