At least 12 people were killed and more than 100 injured in Baghdad on Monday in clashes that erupted after Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced his final retirement from political life. Then his followers stormed the government headquarters. The military announced a nationwide curfew starting at 19:00 local time (18:00 CET). The curfew was in effect in Baghdad since this afternoon.
Young men loyal to Sadr took to the streets to protest his decision and clashed with rival groups backed by Tehran. They threw stones at each other outside the heavily guarded government area.
According to eyewitnesses quoted by Reuters, the sound of gunfire was heard across Baghdad. At least some of the shots are in the air, but the source is not yet clear. Iraq is one of the countries where a large part of the population owns a firearm.
Meanwhile, Iraqi police used tear gas to disperse thousands of Sadr supporters who were trying to storm the government headquarters. According to AFP, the police kept the crowds away from the government area.
According to medics, at least 15 protesters were shot and more than 12 others were injured by tear gas or during physical clashes with riot police.
Demonstrators demand new elections
Iraq leads the government of outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa Kazemi, who suspended the government “until further notice” and called on Muqtada al-Sadr to “instruct protesters to leave government institutions,” wrote Agence France-Presse.
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Sadr’s movement emerged as the strongest party in last October’s elections, but later refused to participate in forming the government, and Sadr’s supporters are now organizing protests and calling for new elections.
“We have decided not to interfere in political affairs anymore. I announce my final retirement from politics,” he added.
According to Reuters, Al-Sadr also announced that he would end the activities of the institutions associated with him, and that this came in response to the faltering political situation.
Only some cultural and religious organizations will continue to operate. Al-Sadr criticizes other Shiite political leaders for not joining his reform proposals.
The curfew, which was quickly announced by the army after followers of al-Sadr stormed the government headquarters, applies to civilians and vehicles. The cleric’s supporters stormed the halls of the government seat and began chanting slogans in support of al-Sadr.
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According to an AFP photographer, the protesters were sitting on benches, some waving Iraqi flags, others taking selfies. Others were swimming in the pool in the garden.
The seat of the Iraqi government is located in the Republic Palace, which is located in a heavily guarded area of the Iraqi capital. His entrance was closed on Monday.
Duchovny had earlier withdrawn the elected representatives of his bloc from Parliament because he did not agree with other parties to appoint a new prime minister. His main opponents are politicians close to Iran.
Sadr’s supporters have been protesting outside parliament and government buildings since the end of July. According to Reuters, negotiations on a new prime minister and a new president have stalled.
The agency wrote that Sadr’s new decision may lead to further instability in the country. According to information from the Associated Press, protests also broke out in the Shiite-majority provinces in the south of the country, with Sadr supporters setting tires on fire and blocking roads in the oil-rich Basra province.