Iraqi cleric supporters storm back Baghdad Green Zone

STORY: Thousands of supporters of Shi'ite populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad's fortified government zone on Saturday (July 30) for the second time in a week, leaving over 125 people injured.

It escalates a political stand-off that is hitting ordinary Iraqis the hardest.

Protesters, rallied by Sadr and his social-political Sadrist Movement, tore down concrete barriers and entered the Green Zone, which houses government departments and foreign missions.

They then broke into the parliament building, according to a Reuters witness.

The scenes followed similar protests on Wednesday.

But this time at many were wounded - including protesters and police - as Sadr's supporters threw stones and police fired teargas and stun grenades, according to security officials and medics.

Some of the wounded were seriously injured, they said.

Sadr's party came first in a general election in October but he withdrew his lawmakers from parliament when he failed to form a government which excluded his Shi'ite rivals, mostly groups backed by Iran.

He has since made good on threats to stir up popular unrest if parliament tries to approve a government he does not like, saying it must be free of foreign influence and the corruption that has plagued Iraq for decades.

Iraq has been without a president and prime minister for a record period because of the deadlock.

Sadr maintains large state power himself because his movement remains involved in running the country - his loyalists sit in powerful positions throughout Iraqi ministries and state bodies.

While Baghdad earns record income from its vast oil wealth, the country has no budget, frequent power and water cuts, poor education and healthcare, and insufficient job opportunities for the young.

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