BAGHDAD: After influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he would leave politics, his followers stormed a government palace and engaged in combat with opposing parties, resulting in fierce confrontations in baghdad that left approximately 20 people dead on Monday.
The heaviest combat the Iraqi capital has seen in years broke out as darkness fell, with machine-gun fire, explosions, and tracer fire billowing into the sky above the Green Zone, which houses government offices and international embassies.
It came after a day of unrest brought on by Sadr’s declaration that he would cease all political activity, a move he claimed was in response to other Shi’ite leaders and parties failing to reform a corrupt and failing political system.
Later, Sadr said he was on a hunger strike to protest the use of force by all parties.Presently, Iraq is battling to recover from decades of war, sanctions, civil unrest, and pervasive corruption. Iraq has experienced yet another round of bloodshed due to a political stalemate between Sadr and his Shi’ite Muslim rivals, who are heavily backed by Iran.
Iraq has experienced sectarian conflict since 2003, as well as more recent intra-sectarian and intra-ethnic political rivalry.In the most recent bloodbath, Sadr’s supporters, who include a highly armed militia, are at conflict with the security forces and other paramilitaries that are allied with Iran.