Shiite cleric calls for end of violence after 30 dead in Iraq

Shiite cleric calls for end of violence after 30 dead in Iraq
Update: 30 August 2022 16:45
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Powerful Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr told his supporters to leave the Green Zone in Iraqi capital after two days of heavy fighting

Influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr told his supporters to leave the capital’s Green Zone, after violence rocked Baghdad for the past two days.

“The party is disciplined and obedient, and I was my hands of those who do not withdraw from parliament building within an hour,” he said in a televised speech.

Al-Sadr also apologised to the Iraqi people for the violence, which killed 30 people and wounded hundreds more, in the worst fighting Iraq has seen in years. 

Violence in the capital erupted on Monday after Shiite cleric Sadr announced his “definitive retirement” from politics and the closure of all affiliated institutions, 10 months after his movement emerged as the winner in the October elections.

Security officials said some of the clashes were between Sadr's Peace Brigades fighters and members of the Iraqi security forces tasked with protecting the Green Zone, but that Iran-aligned militias were also likely to have been involved.

Supporters of al-Sadr could be seen in videos on social media on Tuesday morning firing both heavy machine guns and pistols into the Green Zone through a section of pulled-down concrete walls. 

At least 30 people have been killed and over 400 wounded, two Iraqi medical officials said. The toll included both al-Sadr loyalists killed in protests the day before and clashes overnight. Those figures are expected to rise, said the official.

The US government called for "dialogue" to ease Iraq’s political problems saying the unrest following the powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s announcement to quit politics was "disturbing."

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Washington saw no need to evacuate staff in its Iraqi embassy at this time, after a video showing a helicopter over Baghdad's Green Zone, sparked rumors on social media of an evacuation order.

Meanwhile Iranian state television announced a border closure with Iraq, citing unrest and urged Iranians to avoid any travel to the neighboring country. The decision came as millions were preparing to visit Iraq for an annual pilgrimage to Shiite sites.

The political deadlock in Iraq has been continuing since the elections last October as political parties have not been able to come to terms to form a new government.