The Iranian government has decided to close the country’s border with Iraq on Monday in response to violent clashes in Baghdad. As a result of a political impasse, scores of civilians were killed and many more injured in fighting between Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers and rival militias.
Majid Mirahmadi (Iran’s Deputy Internal Minister) said Monday night that the land border crossings with Iraq will continue to be closed. This was due to tensions in Iraq, and also to safeguard the safety of Iranian pilgrims. All flights from Tehran International Airport to Baghdad were also cancelled.
Iran’s Embassy in Baghdad has asked Iranian nationals currently in Iraq to avoid traveling to the country’s capital, as well as the cities of Kadhimiya and Samarra, and to observe the curfew declared by Iraqi authorities earlier Monday.
The Kuwaiti Embassy in Iraq was urging its citizens to flee the country or delay travel plans, Kuna, a state-run news agency, reported on Monday.
Clashes between security forces and supporters of influential Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr erupted in Baghdad on Monday after al-Sadr announced he was quitting politics for good after months of failed attempts to form a government in the face of opposition from rival factions.
Hundreds of protesters have stormed Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses the presidential palace as well as the US and other foreign embassies. The caretaker government of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi responded by deploying tanks and armored vehicles around the Green Zone and declaring a curfew effective 3:30pm local time, later extended nationwide.
Reuters reports that at least 17 people died and more were injured, citing medical and police sources. AFP claims that around 270 others sustained various injuries. Al-Sadr announced later a hunger strike calling for an end of political violence.
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