IRAQ BAGHDAD POLITICS protest parliament.jpg
Photograph: EPA/AHMED JALIL

Hundreds of protesters were camping near parliament in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad on Sunday, a day after they stormed the assembly demanding reforms.

The protesters loyal to influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr eventually left parliament on Saturday night, only to start an open-ended sit-in in a nearby square to push for long-delayed reforms.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered authorities to arrest protesters who attacked security forces and lawmakers, and destroyed property during the breach.

"They must be referred to court to get fair punishment," al-Abadi said in a statement released by his office.

The premier inspected the parliament building once the demonstrators had left and checked the damage caused to some offices, state media reported.

On Saturday, thousands of al-Sadr's loyalists breached the Green Zone and descended on parliament, protesting the delay in approving a cabinet of independents proposed by al-Abadi.

The breach marked a dramatic escalation in the political crisis in Iraq, which is struggling against Islamist insurgents.

President Fouad Massoum has called al-Abadi and parliamentary Speaker Salim al-Jabouri for a crisis meeting on Sunday, a statement from the president's office said.

There is an increased deployment of security forces in the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies.

No incidents have been reported between security personnel and those camping outside parliament.

For several months, Iraq has witnessed numerous demonstrations against corruption and inefficient public services.

In response, the Shiite prime minister proposed a package of major reforms, including the formation of a government of independent technocrats. But political blocs in parliament have thwarted the move.

Al-Abadi has warned that the current crisis can hamper the country's US-backed fight against the Islamic State extremist group, which controls key areas in Iraq's Sunni heartland.

Meanwhile, at least 11 people were killed Sunday in twin bombings in a mostly Shiite town in southern Iraq, a security official said.

The blasts were caused by a car bomb and an explosive device in the town of Samawa, some 300 kilometres south of the capital Baghdad, head of the local security committee Ahmed Manfi added.

At least 13 people were injured. 

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes a day after 24 people were killed in a car bombing targeting Shiite pilgrims in a Baghdad suburban area. 

That bombing was claimed by the Islamic State radical Sunni militia that regards Shiites as heretics.

Latest news

Merkel calls for fewer EU regulations as nationalist sentiments grow

As voters in the Netherlands, France and Germany show increasing support for nationalist, euro-sceptic political movements ahead of this year's elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for limits on EU regulations.

French prosecutors transfer Fillon case to investigative judge

The French judiciary has opened a formal investigation in connection with presidential candidate Francois Fillon to examine whether the employment of his wife as a parliamentary employee was a sham, the country's financial prosecutors' office said Friday.

White House bars major news outlets from press briefing

Major news organizations, which were Friday blocked by the White House from attending an informal press briefing, condemned the move just hours after President Donald Trump described parts of the media as "the enemy of the people."

Report: German intelligence spied on BBC, other foreign journalists

Germany's intelligence agency monitored foreign journalists at the BBC, the New York Times and other news organizations from 1999 onwards across several countries, according to a Friday report from Der Spiegel magazine.

Classroom for Islamic religious education opened in Split

A classroom for Islamic religious education, whose equipment was financially assisted by city and county authorities, was opened in the coastal city of Split on Friday.

Ministry say no licences for export of military goods to Saudi Arabia issued in 2016

The Economy, Enterprise and Crafts Ministry on Friday issued a statement regarding media reports about export licences for military goods, stressing that in 2016 it did not issue any licences for the export of military goods to Saudi Arabia.

Croatia for preserving Bosnia's stability

Croatia on Friday supported the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), calling on its authorities to adopt decisions in institutions, after a request by BiH Presidency Bosniak member Bakir Izetbegovic to review a ruling which acquitted Serbia of genocide.

Mexico is not a migrant "waiting room" for US, interior minister says

Mexico will not accept undocumented immigrants from other countries whom the United States plans to deport, Mexico's interior minister said Friday.

Right-wing populist Wilders declines first Dutch election debate

Candidates from nine Dutch parties answered questions from journalists Friday at the first national radio debate of the election campaign, but the leading candidate

Bosnian Croat reps insist on channel airing programmes in Croatian

Being one of the constituent peoples, the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are entitled to a broadcaster that will air programmes in their native language, HNS BiH official Ivan Vukoja said at a news conference in Mostar on Friday.

Same-sex couples in Slovenia can marry

A Slovenian law allowing same-sex couples to marry went into force on Friday and the first civil registrar ceremony, between two women, is to take place in Maribor on Saturday, the town's Vecer daily said.

Moody's changes Agrokor's outlook to negative

The Moody's rating agency on Friday changed its outlook for the Agrokor food retailer from stable to negative, affirming its rating of B3.