Iraqi security forces deployed heavily around Baghdad’s Green Zone in the early hours of Friday morning as pro-Iran militias prepared to protest the results of recent parliamentary elections.
The Green Zone, a fortified area in central Baghdad, contains Iraqi government offices and Western diplomatic missions.
Iraq held parliamentary elections on October 10 and the Sairoon Alliance, led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, emerged as the largest party winning 73 seats in the 329 seat parliament.
Al-Sadr has previously had an ambivalent relationship with Iran.
The militias, most of whom are part of the state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces coalition, have accused the Iraqi government of falsifying results and “stealing” the election.
They have called on their supporters to take to the streets on Friday, calling the planned protests “The Friday of the Last Chance”.
Dozens of military vehicles carrying security personnel were seen entering the Green Zone late on Thursday night and early on Friday morning.
Eyewitnesses told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that the security forces had entered via the Green Zone’s Qadissiyah Gate and then positioned themselves there and at the other gates leading to the area.
An officer in the Baghdad Joint Operations Command also told The New Arab’s Arabic language service that “hundreds of security forces are taking part” in a plan to protect the Green Zone.
He added that they had set up barriers in the Karrada and Jadiriya areas near the zone, as well as in Tahrir Square.
“Orders have emphasised avoiding clashes with the protesters while preventing them from reaching the gates of the Green Zone,” the officer said.
Earlier, Qais Al-Khazali, the leader of the Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq militia said, “The results of the elections are rejected by those who took part in them and this is based on evidence.”
“Demonstrations will continue until people get their rights and falsifying results is unacceptable,” he added.
Following previous threats from militias the Iraqi High Election Commission revised previously declared results although it later denied that the revisions had been made in response to threats.
On Friday the Election Commission announced that it had finished recounting votes in several Iraqi provinces in response to challenges from candidates and would begin recounting votes in Baghdad in response to similar challenges.
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