Police, Protesters Clash in Baghdad's Green Zone

Anti-government protesters storm Baghdad's Green Zone in Iraq May 20. Stringer/Reuters

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters who stormed into Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone and entered at least one government building, witnesses said.

Dozens of people incurred injuries from tear gas and live fire, witnesses said.

The thousands of protesters included supporters of powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and people from other groups upset with the government's failure to approve anti-corruption reforms and provide security.

The government imposed a curfew on Baghdad in response to the violence at the Green Zone, which houses parliament, government buildings and many foreign embassies.

A Reuters witness said the protesters were stopped at the gate of the cabinet building but witnesses later said they had entered.

Unverified online photos showed protesters holding Iraqi flags and flashing peace signs in front of the insignia of the prime minister's press office and inside a meeting room.

The protesters began withdrawing from the Green Zone to Tahrir Square, but witnesses said an Interior Ministry force and unidentified gunmen opened fire there.

State television said Baghdad Operations Command was imposing a curfew in the capital "until further notice."

"Riot police are dealing with anyone trying to damage state institutions in accordance with the law," the military said.

State television said Baghdad Operations Command was imposing a curfew in the capital "until further notice."

Sadr supporters protesting parliament's failure to approve a non-political cabinet also stormed the Green Zone on April 30.

They have added to their grievances the government's failure to provide security after a wave of bombings claimed by Islamic State in Baghdad this month which killed more than 150 people. Sadr did not explicitly call for Friday's demonstration.

"Oh army, the country is hurt! Don't side with the corrupt!" the demonstrators chanted.

Iraq's political crisis broke out in February, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced plans to appoint a cabinet of independent technocrats, threatening to uproot a system of political patronage that makes the public administration open to corruption.

He has warned that the impasse could hamper Iraq's fight against Islamic State, which continues to control territory in northern and western Iraq.

Sadr, the heir of a revered clerical dynasty, says he backs Abadi's plan and has accused other political groups of blocking the reforms due to their own vested interests.