BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than 100 relatives of Iraqi soldiers captured by Islamic State fighters broke into parliament armed with sticks, metal bars and stones on Tuesday to demand news of them, witnesses said.
The crowd, mostly from Iraq’s Shi‘ite majority, smashed equipment, assaulted at least two staff members they mistook for lawmakers and refused to leave the building, said officials inside.
“They were ready to bulldoze anyone standing in front of them. They were saying ‘Our sons are buried in the dust. We don’t even know their names, and you are sitting here in comfort under the air conditioning’,” a parliament employee said.
A special forces unit came to remove them from the parliament,” the employee said.
Eventually, the security forces and parliament officials calmed the protesters and told them there would be a special session on their missing relatives Wednesday. The demonstrators were then housed at a nearby hotel so their representatives could attend the coming session, according to a parliament employee.
Islamic State captured the soldiers in June at the start of its lightening advance through northern and central Iraq, where it declared an Islamic Caliphate and threatened to march on Baghdad.
The soldiers walked out of their base in Tikrit, north of the capital, believing a truce had been brokered. Instead, Islamic State took them and later reported it had killed 1,700 soldiers, posting pictures of corpses online.
There have been no independent reports on how many died. Locals in Tikrit said in June they believed the number was in the hundreds.
The relatives had been scheduled to address parliament about the fate of their relatives. But they started to violently protest outside the building and then forced their way inside past several checkpoints, according to parliament employees.
“They broke into parliament. They roughed up some guards and officials,” another witness said.
Some lawmakers fled, leaving briefcases and jackets behind, one civil servant said.
Reporting By Raheem Salman and Ned Parker, Editing by Angus MacSwan