Unrest in Baghdad after the announcement of the strongman’s departure from politics
NOS . News•
Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced on Twitter that he was retiring from politics. His intent to further fuel unrest in Iraq. Hundreds of supporters of the Shiite cleric tried to storm the government palace in Baghdad this afternoon.
Protesters tried, among other things, to tear down concrete barriers with ropes. The Iraqi army is calling on the demonstrators to leave the heavily guarded area around the government palace as soon as possible “to avoid escalation or Iraqi bloodshed.” A curfew has also been announced starting at 3:30 pm local time.
This is the first time that Sadr’s supporters have attempted to enter the government palace, which has been home to an interim government for months. They have stormed Parliament twice in recent weeks to prevent the appointment of a new president and a new prime minister.
Iraq has been going through a deep political crisis since the October elections of last year. Then Sadr’s party became the largest, but there is no new government yet.
The 48-year-old Sadr, one of Iraq’s top clerics, has failed to form a majority coalition with the Sunni and Kurdish parties. Then he called 73 deputies from his party to resign.
Since then, their seats have been occupied by Shiite deputies, who, unlike Sadr, are supported by neighboring Iran. Because of the political impasse, no new president and prime minister has yet been appointed.
Fear of escalation
This is not the first time that al-Sadr has announced his departure from politics. But with the political situation in Iraq now very unstable, there are widespread fears that today’s announcement will lead to further escalation.
Sadr has millions of followers. In the past, he played an important role in the Shiite resistance to the occupation of Iraq by the United States and other Western powers. He also led his own militia, the Mahdi Army, during the US presence in Iraq since 2003.
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