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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mob Storms Bulgarian Parliament

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Demonstrators demanding an end to rule by former Communists broke through a police cordon guarding parliament Friday, smashed furniture and equipment, and set one room on fire.

Firemen extinguished the blaze and police used tear gas to prevent the protesters from seizing the building, where Socialists, the former Communists, were holding an emergency session of parliament. The opposition had walked out earlier in the day.

Police blocked entrances to the parliamentary chamber itself. The crowd smashed furniture and computers in several offices.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded the building earlier in the day, smashed windows and vowed to trap Socialist deputies inside until they agreed to early elections.

Several demonstrators were injured in confrontations with riot police who surrounded parliament to prevent protesters from entering. They blocked all entrances, pushing back demonstrators with their shields and clubbing some of them.

Several windows were smashed by demonstrators hurling stones and snowballs and chanting "Red Mafia" and "Elections Now."

Interior Minister Nikolai Dobrev, nominated Wednesday by the ruling Socialists as new premier, was pelted with snowballs despite efforts by police to cover him with their shields.

"These are well-prepared provocations," Dobrev told private Radio Darik. "All legislators will be taken safely out of the building."

As the crowd swelled way beyond an original 20,000, police sent a dozen jeeps in an apparent attempt to take Socialist deputies out of parliament. Demonstrators jumped on the cars, shouting "Elections!" More windows and doors were smashed as protesters burst through the police cordon. Police inside struggled to keep doors shut.

Inside, parliament's Socialist speaker summoned an emergency session -- apparently to consider an opposition demand for early elections rejected out of hand hours earlier by the Socialists.

Legislators of the anti-Communist opposition earlier had walked out of the building and joined the demonstration after Socialist deputies refused to vote on a proposal to call early elections.

After the opposition walked out, the Socialists -- who hold 125 of the 240 seats -- approved a declaration on ways to overcome the grave crisis in the country.