Powerful cleric announces hunger strike as fighting escalates in Iraq — Analysis

Muqtada Al-Sadr urged the end of violence in Baghdad as his supporters clashed against rival militia.

Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi cleric, announced Monday night a hunger strike calling for the end of political violence. More than a dozen people have been killed in clashes between Sadr’s followers and rival militias in Baghdad, after no agreement was reached on the new Iraqi government and the Shia cleric said he was retiring from politics.

Al-Sadr plans to keep the hunger strike going. “until violence and the use of weapons in the country stop,”Hassan al-Adari (head of Sadrist parliamentary block), said that corruption must be stopped. “does not excuse the use of violence.”

According to the 48-year old Shia cleric, he will retire earlier Monday due to the continuing parliamentary deadlock as well as lack of reforms. His supporters stormed into the presidential palace in a retaliatory attack. 

Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the interim government in Iraqi Prime Minister was able to respond by sending tanks. armored vehicles around Baghdad’s “Green Zone”Declaring a curfew in effect at 15:30 local time. 

Twitter shared an unconfirmed video showing a helicopter moving to evacuate some US diplomat personnel. This was amid reports that there were clashes among rival militias and Sadrists. However, the White House denied any reports that there had been an evacuation.

Baghdad fell to night as gunfire continued. The riots claimed the lives of at least twelve people. Unconfirmed reports of artillery firing were made in the aftermath. “Green Zone” and the activation of the US embassy’s point defense systems.

Kuwait, which is neighboring Iraq, called for all citizens to flee Iraq due to the current safety situation. According to reports, Kurdish militias were on alert in northern Iraq for potential attacks from the remnants Islamic State (formerly ISIS terrorist group).

Protesters storm presidential palace (VIDEOS)

Sadr’s party won 73 seats in Iraq’s 329-seat parliament in last year’s election, but haven’t been able to form a governing coalition. In June, Sadr’s parliamentarians quit and demanded a fresh election. Meanwhile, they continued to occupy the legislature in order to prevent another Shia faction – which Sadr accused of being too close to Iran – from forming a government.

Sadr isn’t the first to announce his resignation from politics. He has done so before. This cleric, who rose to prominence following the 2003 US invasion, first applauded the overthrow and later denounced the US occupation. His political organization has a military wing known as the “Mahdi Army.” 

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