Thousands of Iraqi cleric's followers rally for reform in Baghdad

Thousands of followers of Iraq’s powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered on Friday in the capital Baghdad, demanding government reforms.

Al-Sadr attended the protest held in central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square amid tight security.

“Today I came to attend the protest, and to support your demands,” al-Sadr told his supporters as security helicopters flew over the area.

In a gesture of national unity, al-Sadr chanted: “Yes to Iraq. Sunnis and Shiites will not sell their homeland.”

The rally comes more than a week after a car bombing, claimed by the radical Sunni Islamic State, left nearly 300 people dead in central Baghdad.

Al-Sadr on Friday renewed his demands for forming a government of independent technocrats and anti-corruption measures.

The firebrand cleric has repeatedly accused the Shiite-led government of failing to combat corruption and improve public services.

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

Critics say the system contributes to corruption and incompetency in state institutions.

Friday’s rally was held despite an earlier call from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to halt demonstrations to avoid “chaos.” Iraq is engaged in a US-backed fight against Islamic State, which still controls territory in the country, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

Last update: Fri, 15/07/2016 - 12:34

More from World

Iraq claims early gains in bid to retake Mosul from Islamic State

 Iraqi forces said on Sunday that they had regained territory from Islamic State in the western part of Mosul, hours...

Turkey's Erdogan to bring constitutional reform campaign to Europe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to bring a campaign for constitutional reform to Turks living in...

Truck bomb kills 35 in Somali capital

A suicide truck bomb on Sunday exploded at a market in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, killing at least 35 people,...

Ecuadorians head to polls to choose new president

Polls opened for Ecuador's general election Sunday as voters prepared to choose a successor to President Rafael...

What happened in Sweden? Country confused by Trump's rally remarks

Swedish commentators and media Sunday reacted with astonishment at weekend remarks by US President Donald Trump...