Rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone as Iraq parliament meets

Parliament convenes for vote to elect a new president after several rockets land in and around the fortified area.

Baghdad’s green zone after rocket attack
Preliminary information suggested at least nine rockets landed in and around the fortified area [Reuters screengrab]

Nine rockets landed on Thursday near the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, according to a military statement, as a controversial parliament session was about to begin to elect the country’s new president.

Iraqi lawmakers reconvened in the afternoon after quorum was reached to postpone the session, with at least 269 of the 329 members attending the session.

A first round of voting on the presidential nomination resulted in failure to reach required two-thirds majority. A second round was under way.

Several civilians and members of the security forces were wounded in Thursday’s attack, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed reported from Baghdad.

Abdelwahed said preliminary information suggests at least nine rockets landed in and around the fortified area as the parliament was about to begin its session, which has been boycotted by members of parliament affiliated with powerful Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

One landed in proximity of a mosque in the Allawi neighborhood, near the Green Zone, Abdelwahed said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The attacks struck after the Coordination Framework, an alliance made up of mostly Iran-backed Shiite parties, submitted a formal letter claiming to be the largest bloc in Parliament.

The alliance named Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as their nominee for the premiership, a key legal step before the next government can be formed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has condemned the attack on Twitter, saying “we categorically reject any attempt to obstruct the democratic process.”

“We support the completion of the constitutional deadlines to end the political crisis,” he said.

In a similar incident, rockets hit the Green Zone last week as the parliament was about to vote for the deputy speaker of parliament.

The country has witnessed months of political deadlock after al-Sadr last year emerged as the biggest winner in a parliamentary vote but failed to rally enough support to form a government.

Many feared protests by the al-Sadr followers ahead of the session. His supporters stormed the parliament on June 30 and stalled the government formation process when al-Sudani was first named nominee by the Framework.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial position, but the vote is a key step in the political process as the president invites the nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies