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

Obamas make final call to bid Merkel 'Auf Wiedersehen'

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband,...

Trump arrives in Washington ahead of Friday inauguration

Donald Trump arrived in Washington on Thursday as he prepares to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United...

US airstrikes kill 80 Islamic State forces in Libya, Pentagon says

United States forces carried out overnight airstrikes on two camps operated by Islamic State militants inside Libya...

UN backs Gambia's new president Adama Barrow

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to back Gambia's new president, Adama Barrow, and called for a...

Gambia's new president, inaugurated in Senegal, promises unity

Adama Barrow was sworn in as Gambian president in neighbouring Senegal on Thursday after weeks of political impasse...