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Twenty-three people were killed in the “green zone” of Baghdad in the midst of chaos after a new outburst by Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who announced his “final withdrawal” from politics in Iraq. The country is now under curfew.
Iraq, in a political stalemate since the October 2021 legislative elections, continues to sink into crisis. This Monday, the situation brutally degenerated in the capital and hundreds of supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr invaded the Palace of the Republic where the Council of Ministers sits.
While the sadrists took over the offices, settling into armchairs, jumping into the swimming pool or taking selfiesthe security forces tried to disperse other demonstrators with tear gas canisters at the entrances to the “green zone”, which houses the headquarters of the institutions and the American embassy.
Twenty-three supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr were killed and many others injured, medical sources told AFP, without giving further details on the circumstances. Witnesses reported exchanges of fire between Sadrists and supporters of the Coordination Framework, a pro-Iran rival of the Moqtada al-Sadr camp at the entrances to the “green zone”. According to security sources, at least seven mortar shells also fell on the area on Monday evening.
The army decreed a national curfew which came into effect at 4:00 p.m. GMT, and the security forces crisscrossed the capital.
Tensions in Basra
In Basra, the tension finally spread to the city. This afternoon, however, this Shiite bastion, located 500 kilometers from Baghdad, continued to live normally. In the street, the processions held were religious: they marked the month of Muharram in the Muslim calendar, a month of mourning for Shiites, report our special envoys, Guilhem Delteil and Bertrand Haeckler.
But, at the end of the day, as the sun began to set, groups of men took over many crossroads and began to burn tires, preventing motorists from passing. The protesters met by RFI said they were not affiliated with a political party. But it was indeed Moqtada al-Sadr’s claims that they were taking up. They denounced the corruption of the leaders and demanded the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of early elections. Precisely what the religious leader has been asking for for a month.
For several hours, the police did not intervene. But tonight, bursts of gunfire were heard. And a sign of the concern of the inhabitants: long lines quickly formed in front of the service stations.
Moqtada al-Sadr” manages events behind the scenes »
Moqtada al-Sadr is known for his outbursts and his turnovers. Should we therefore take his announcement of withdrawal seriously? For Adel Bakawan, director of the French Center for Research on Iraq (CFRI), ” must take [cette annonce] seriously, but absolutely not in the sense of a definitive withdrawal as announced. Withdrawal has another meaning for Moqtada al-Sadr, namely I am withdrawing from direct intervention in the organization and direction of events in the Iraqi political field, but while remaining behind the scenes in the maneuver. In other words, he did not dissolve his militia organization which is called Sarāyā al-Salām, the “Peace Brigades”. Its political organization remains intact. On the other hand, he as an actor, instead of intervening directly in the negotiation, the formation of the government, he manages the events behind the scenes “.