More than a thousand angry family members of Iraqi soldiers abducted in June by extremist group Islamic State broke into parliament in Baghdad on Tuesday, where they launched a sit-in campaign to demand the government find and return their missing relatives.
A witness inside the parliament building said the demonstrators "roughed up" some guards and officials, and broke equipment inside the assembly hall. The relatives of soldiers abducted by IS in Tikrit, located 100 miles north of Baghdad, had been scheduled to address parliament on Tuesday about the fate of their loved ones.
Instead, they protested outside the building, according to witnesses, and later forced their way inside. Anti-riot police had so far unsuccessfully tried to force the protesters out.
Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that "there's a lot of anger" among the protesters over the perceived failure of the government to find their relatives.
"What they want from the government are answers," she said. "Most of all, what they want are the bodies" of their relatives, who are presumed dead.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, Alaa Makki, a member of parliament, called on the country's military to address the demands of the families.
"They have the right to ask about what happened to their relatives," Makki said.
Some 1,700 soldiers surrendered to IS in June. The group subsequently released photographs of dozens of men in civilian clothes apparently being executed by firing squad in a desert area, and said that it had killed hundreds in total.
Parliament was supposed to discuss the issue on Tuesday, but the building was stormed before the start of the session, which has now been postponed until Wednesday.
There have been reports that the missing soldiers may have been killed not by IS, but by other Sunni groups.
Iraqi security forces were swept aside by an IS offensive earlier this year, when they gained control over large swathes of the country’s northeast. Iraq’s military – with the help of U.S. airstrikes, Shia militiamen and Kurdish fighters – have since made gains in their push to retake territory from the group.
Al Jazeera and wire services