BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s prime minister vowed on Thursday to prevent another breach of Baghdad’s Green Zone, hours before a planned protest by followers of a senior Shi‘ite cleric, hundreds of whom stormed the fortified complex last week.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s promise came just a day after he sacked Green Zone security chief, Lieutenant-General Mohammed Ridha, replacing him with Major General Kareem Abboud al-Tamimi, sources said.
Ridha had appeared in videos kissing Sadr’s hand as he entered Baghdad’s Green Zone and began a sit-in in March.
“Changes have been carried out in the security system and plans were in place to protect constitutional institutions and prevent the recurrence of what happened recently,” Abadi said in a speech on state television.
Last Tuesday, supporters of Shi‘ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone and broke into the parliament building, attacking deputies and demanding reforms to a political quota system blamed for rampant corruption.
Sadr wants to see Abadi’s proposed technocrat government approved but powerful parties within parliament have resisted, fearing the dismantling of patronage networks that sustain their wealth and influence.
Abadi has warned that the continuing political turmoil could hamper the war against ultra hardline Sunni militants, Islamic State, who control large swathes of northern and western Iraq.
Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Toby Chopra