Iraq: 20 killed in clashes after Muqtada al-Sadr quits politics & announces hunger strike
At least 20 people have been killed and more than 300 injured after Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced quitting politics on Monday.
Iraq, which has been witnessing a political crisis since October last year, plunged into further crisis as clashes over the resignation of an influential Shiite cleric further fuelled conflict between his followers and security forces. According to news agency Sputnik, at least 20 people have been killed and more than 300 injured after Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced quitting politics on Monday.
Furious followers pulled down the cement barriers outside the government palace and stormed the lavish spots, including a key meeting place for Iraqi heads of state and foreign dignitaries. This forced the Iraqi military to announce a nationwide curfew, while the caretaker Prime Minister suspended Cabinet sessions in response to the violence.
During the clash, the news agency Associated Press reported a soldier from the special forces division, which is responsible for security in the Green Zone, was killed. In order to control the clash, security officers responded with gunfire and tear gas, resulting in the injury of dozens of protesters. The matter turned more grave after the leader announced a hunger strike until the security forces stop “violence against protestors”.
He appealed to the police to not use weapons against his loyal supporters. Meanwhile, reports of security forces using mortar surfaced and the government announced the opening of an investigation into the shootings and said the use of live ammunition against protesters was forbidden.
Muqtada al-Sadr’s annonced he would resign from Iraqi politics
It is worth mentioning that the Iraqi government has been battling against protestors ever since the country concluded parliamentary elections last year. In the elections, the al-Sadr party won the largest share but did not secure enough to claim a majority.
His denial to deal with his Iran-backed Shiite rivals and subsequent exit from the negotiations have catapulted the country into political uncertainty. Also, his move intensified intra-Shiite wrangling.
This is not the first time when al-Sadr incited violence in order to gain political mileage. For the last 10 months, he has been constantly calling for early elections and the dissolution of Parliament.
Many contested his latest move as a bluff to gain greater leverage against his rivals amid a worsening stalemate. The cleric has used the tactic on previous occasions when political developments did not go his way.