>> Thousands of demonstrators gathering in downtown Baghdad Saturday, violence escalating as security forces began firing tear gas, with reports of one policeman killed and seven others wounded in clashes. These protestors loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanding political reforms. Iraqi security forces pushing back as they approach the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and embassies.
The demonstrators want an overhaul of the commission that supervises elections ahead of a provincial vote due in September. Sadr suspects that members of this commission are loyal to his Shiite rival, former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, on of the closest allies of Iran, in Iraq. He said his supporters wanted to go near the Green Zone to make their voices heard, but then asked them to quote withdraw until further notice.
The escalation of problems with the prominent cleric comes as a bad time for prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who wants to keep the focus on dislodging Islamic State from Mosul.