Iraq: Clashes erupt in Baghdad after Moqtada Sadr supporters storm government palace, 15 dead

Iraq Protests

Protest by supporters of cleric Moqtada Sadr (File image)

Photo : AP

Baghdad: At least 15 protesters were killed on Monday after supporters of cleric Moqtada Sadr stormed the government palace in Baghdad’s Green Zone, reported AFP. A fresh protest erupted after Sadr said that he was quitting politics. Around 270 people also sustained injuries after shots were fired in the area which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions.
As per the AFP report, all the people killed were Sadr supporters. The supporters of the Shiite leader and the pro-Iran Coordination Framework reportedly exchanged fire. The Framework condemned the attack on government buildings by Sadrists. It urged Sadr supporters to engage in dialogue. At least seven shells reportedly fell in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone after which automatic weapons were fired, a source told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

After the incident, a nationwide curfew has been announced from 7:00 pm onwards by the army. An investigation has been ordered by caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi into the incident that resulted in 12 deaths. He further added that security forces were prohibited from opening fire on protesters.

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The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) termed the development as “an extremely dangerous escalation”. It also urged all sides to refrain from acts that would lead to violence. Notably, protests have also spread to other parts of the country as Sadr supports stormed government buildings in the cities of Nasiriyah and Hillah, reported AFP.

Iraq is witnessing a political crisis. For months, the country has been without a new government, prime minister or president. The political turmoil erupted in the country after legislative elections in October last year. There is a disagreement between Shiite factions over forming a coalition.

Earlier in the day, Sadr announced that he was quitting politics. “I’ve decided not to meddle in political affairs. I, therefore, announce now my definitive retirement,” reported the news agency quoting the Shiite leader as saying. Notably, Sadr led a militia against American and Iraqi government forces. Shortly after his announcement, his followers stormed into the Republican Palace.