Sadr calls on supporters to end Baghdad protests after violent clashes

Date:

  • Sadr calls on supporters to end protests
  • Iran to close border for Shia pilgrimage next month
  • 22 people killed in clashes in Baghdad; worst in years
  • Violence erupted after Sadr announced his withdrawal from politics

BAGHDAD, Aug. 30 (Reuters) – Iraq’s powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers to end their protests in central Baghdad on Tuesday, easing a confrontation that sparked the deadliest violence in the Iraqi capital in years .

Sadr apologized to the Iraqis after 22 people were killed in clashes between an armed group loyal to him and rival Shia Muslim factions backed by Iran. Sadr condemned the fighting and gave his own followers an hour to disperse.

“This is not a revolution because it has lost its peaceful nature,” Sadr, a former leader of the anti-American insurgents, said in a televised speech. “Shedding Iraqi blood is prohibited.”

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As the deadline passed around 2pm (1100 GMT), Sadr’s followers could be seen starting to leave the fortified Green Zone area in central Baghdad, where government offices are located and where they had occupied parliament for weeks.

Monday’s clashes between rival factions of Iraq’s Shia Muslim majority follow 10 months of political deadlock since Iraq’s October parliamentary election, which has fueled fears of escalating unrest.

Sadr emerged as the main winner in the election, but failed in his efforts to form a government with Sunni Islamist Arab and Kurdish parties, with the exception of the Iran-backed Shia groups.

This week’s violence erupted after Sadr said he was withdrawing from all political activity — a decision he said was a response to the failure of other Shia leaders and parties to reform a corrupt and decaying governance system. .

NATIONAL VERDICT

The Iraqi military announced a nationwide curfew on Monday and urged protesters to leave the Green Zone. But an Iraqi government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity shortly before Sadr’s call to end the protests, said authorities could not impose control on the rival armed groups.

“The government is powerless to stop this because the army is divided into (Iranian) loyalists and Sadrists,” the official said.

Earlier on Tuesday, militants fired rockets into the Green Zone and gunmen drove pickup trucks carrying machine guns and swinging grenade launchers, while most residents observed the curfew. Cannon and rocket fire echoed through the city at night.

The United States called the unrest troubling and called for dialogue to alleviate Iraq’s political problems. Neighboring Iran closed the border and halted flights to Iraq less than three weeks before the Arbaeen Shia ritual that draws millions of Iranians to the Iraqi city of Kerbala.

Sadr has positioned himself as a nationalist who opposes all foreign interference, from the United States and the West as well as from Iran.

He has called for snap elections and the dissolution of parliament, saying that no politician in power since the US invasion in 2003 should remain in office.

He commands thousands of strong militia and has millions of loyal supporters across the country. His opponents, staunch allies of Tehran, control dozens of paramilitary groups heavily armed and trained by Iranian forces.

“There are unchecked militias, yes, but that doesn’t mean the Sadrist Movement should be unchecked too,” Sadr said in his speech that broke down the protests.

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Reporting by John Davison, Moataz Mohamed and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Written by Nadine Awadalla and Dominic Evans; Editing by Alex Richardson and Tomasz Janowski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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