irak flags, IRAQ CRISIS PROTEST.jpg
Photograph: EPA/AHMED JALIL

Iraqi protesters withdrew Friday from the Green Zone a few hours after Iraqi authorities had declared a state of emergency in the capital Baghdad, security sources told dpa.

All protesters have pulled out completely, while security forces are currently deployed inside and outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, the sources added.

The curfew had been put into force shortly after thousands of protesters breached the Green Zone and stormed the premier's office there, demanding reforms, the sources added.

The Baghdad Operations Command also closed access roads to Baghdad in an attempt to prevent more protesters from entering the city.

Witnesses said that security forces guarding the Green Zone fired bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters, who were mainly followers of the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

At least three demonstrators were killed and 22 injured, they said.

There was no immediate official confirmation.

The breaching was the second in less than a month of the Green Zone in central Baghdad.

Late last month, al-Sadr's loyalists pushed their way into the area, which also houses several foreign embassies, and briefly stormed parliament.

Iraq has for months been locked in a crisis over forming a government of independents.

Major political blocs in parliament have repeatedly blocked the move.

Iraqi governments have been formed along political and sectarian lines since the US-led 2003 invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein.

Critics say the system contributes to corruption and administrative incompetence. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite Muslim, has warned that the current row is to the advantage of the Islamic State radical Sunni militia that holds key areas in Iraq. 

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