Clashes have erupted in the Iraqi capital Baghdad as a fresh wave of reform protests called by a respected cleric turns violent.
Local media said police fired tear gas and live shots to disperse hundreds of protests who were attempting to break into the Green Zone, a fortified area in central Baghdad that houses government offices and foreign embassies.
The protesters stormed the Green Zone and headed toward the prime minister's office. A curfew was slapped on Baghdad after the Green Zone breach.
Reports said at least 17 people were injured in the police crackdown while many were taken to hospitals to receive gas inhalation treatment.
Images circulating on social media showed protesters escaping tear gas while blood was spilled on the streets and victims were being taken to hospitals.
The protests come amid a turbulent political situation in Iraq where repeated attempts by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for introducing a reform-minded cabinet have failed due to consistent differences among rival political factions.
The reshuffle plan came after weekly demonstrations in Baghdad by followers of Najaf-based Muqtada Sadr, who has repeatedly slammed government’s failure in dealing with corruption and mismanagement.
Earlier this month, Sadr followers broke into the compound of parliament inside the Green Zone area, protesting a stalled vote in the chamber for endorsing Abadi’s nominees.
The vote has also been undermined by the fragile security situation in Baghdad. More than 200 people have been killed in bomb attacks in and around Baghdad over the past 10 days. Daesh, which has lost its control over territories in west and north of Iraq, has claimed the attacks.
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