At least 23 people are confirmed dead in Iraqi capital after Sadr said he was quitting politics and incited violent protests by his loyalists.
As riots in Baghdad extended throughout southern Iraq, demonstrations spurred by Muqtada al-Sadr’s departure from politics on Monday deteriorated into deadly mayhem and at least 23 people were killed. On Tuesday, shooting and explosions could be heard throughout the city as fighting continued in the area around the fortified Green Zone in the capital of Iraq.
But sometimes it wasn’t obvious who was battling who. The Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary organizations were being restrained, according to military sources, despite claims made by Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam faction that it was battling both federal Special Division soldiers and other Shia paramilitaries. Tuesday, doctors informed AFP that 380 demonstrators had been hurt and 23 had been killed in Baghdad by gunfire. The police chief was one among the injured federal police officers.
On Monday morning, when prominent Shia imam Sadr declared he was quitting politics, mayhem broke out. After winning the elections in October, Sadr attempted to establish a government but was unable due to opposition from other Shia groups. Sadr has made this assertion earlier. But his loyalists who were already protesting with sit-ins outside the parliament in Baghdad’s Green Zone—started attacking the institutions of power.
Machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, vehicle-mounted artillery, bombs, and subsequently it appeared rockets were also launched towards the Green Zone. It wasn’t always obvious who was firing who in the commotion.
Unrest in the Air
Baghdad inhabitants spent the night tensely hoping that peace would return since they were cooped up by curfew and afraid to venture outdoors. Hadi al-Ameri, the leader of the Badr Organization, which is supported by Iran, also pleaded for calm while Sadr himself declared he would go on a hunger strike unless the fighting stopped.
Marwa Abdel Ridha, a lawyer, was hopeless. “I cried for the previous few hours. She told the media, “Anyone with a heart would be pained by the killing of these young men and women. “Why is everyone constantly battling? Everyone is crooked, and innocent citizens always suffer the consequences as the victims. Is there not someone rational who can stop this bloodshed?” Added he.
It didn’t take long for the unrest to reach areas with a large Shia population in the south, where Sadr and his adversaries have a strong following. Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataeb Hezbollah head office were set on fire, missile bombs were dropped on them, or people just opened fire on them in Baghdad, Diwaniyah, and Basra.
In the southern Dhi Qar governorate, the provincial government building was also reportedly overrun by Sadr’s followers. Sadrist protesters blocked roads and set fire to tires in Basra.
Reporters were informed by a commander of Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam armed group that Sadrist protestors were caught in gunfire in the Green Zone. “Hundreds of demonstrators are confined inside. These folks were caught in the crossfire since they didn’t abandon their posts ” he explained.
The unrest came to a close following Sadr’s call for the followers to quit the streets. The future, however, seems more disappointing than ever with the polarized society more at the precipice than ever.