At least 10 protesters killed in Iraqi clashes following cleric’s resignation
Ten protesters were killed after hundreds of supporters of an influential Iraqi Shiite cleric who announced his retirement from politics on Monday stormed the government palace, according to the Associated Press.
Muqtada al Sadr supporters breached the palace gates and pulled down the cement barriers in Baghdad’s secure Green Zone on Monday, prompting the Iraqi military’s order for a nationwide curfew. In addition to the 10 who were killed, at least 15 others were wounded by gunfire, and another dozen were hurt with tear gas and in physical altercations with riot police.
PROTESTERS BREACH IRAQ’S GREEN ZONE AND GOVERNMENT PALACE
Al Sadr had won broad support for opposing both U.S. and Iranian influence on Iraqi politics and was the big winner from October’s election, but he withdrew his party’s lawmakers from parliament in June after he was unable to form a government that excluded his opposition.
There had been reports circulating on social media that the United States had evacuated its embassy in Baghdad, but a senior military official denied that rumor on Monday afternoon.
“If we were conducting an evacuation, I promise I wouldn’t be able to be on the line with you right now,” the official told reporters. “We’d be completely inundated with an evacuation. That is not the case. And so I don’t know where a bunch of that reporting is coming from. But the embassy, I am certainly aware of the ongoing protests in and around the Green Zone, and, as you know, have been going on more or less for the past several weeks, but there is no change to our status in the embassy.”
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National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said the situation in Iraq was “disturbing” but reiterated that the U.S. was not evacuating its embassy staffers.
Al Sadr’s refusal to deal with Iranian-backed Shiite rivals has led to the political uncertainty and turmoil surrounding the government.