The death toll due to clashes between supporters of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi security forces has risen to 20. Over 300 people have also been injured in the violence that broke out after Muqtada al-Sadr announced to quit politics, reported news agency ANI, citing media reports.
After Muqtada al-Sadr made the announcement, thousands of his supporters stormed the Iraqi Presidential palace on Monday. In order to stop them the Shi’ite cleric sat on a hunger strike and urged his followers to stop resorting to violence and use of weapons.
“Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr is said to have announced a hunger strike until the violence and use of weapons stops,” Al Jazeera reported citing Iraq’s state media.
The Shi’ite cleric announced his resignation from politics following which the Military reinforcements were sent to the presidential palace as the followers of Al Sadr tore down cement barriers outside the government building in support of the cleric.
An immediate curfew was put in place right after as Palace security was unable to control the mass of demonstrators.
In the wake of violence, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged for de-escalate of the situation.
“The Secretary-General has been following with concern the ongoing protests in Iraq today, during which demonstrators entered government buildings. He is particularly concerned about reports of casualties. He appeals for calm and restraint, and urges all relevant actors to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and avoid any violence,” said, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson of the Secretary-General in the statement.
“The Secretary-General strongly urges all parties and actors to rise above their differences and to engage, without further delay, in a peaceful and inclusive dialogue on a constructive way forward,” it added.
Earlier in July, numerous Iraqi demonstrators, mostly supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the heavily fortified parliament building in Baghdad to protest against the nomination for prime minister by rival Iran-backed parties. The protesters were opposing the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for the post of Prime Minister, as they believe him to be too close to Iran.
(With ANI inputs)