Iraq: Protests and firing after Sadr’s political exit, army declares curfew

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Iraqi army has declared a nationwide curfew after supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr stormed government building in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The curfew will come into effect from 7 pm local time (1600 GMT) on Monday, August 29. The protests erupted on the same day of declaration from Sadr of a political exit.

The influential Shiite cleric took to Twitter on Monday to his full withdrawal from political life  

“I’ve decided not to meddle in political affairs. I, therefore, announce now my definitive retirement,” read Sadr’s tweet

The surprise move came even as his supporters continued to block Iraqi parliament.

The protests started shortly after Sadr’s tweet. His supporters “entered the Republican Palace”, a government building inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. The Green Zone also houses diplomatic missions.

Inside the palace, protesters lounged in armchairs in a meeting room, with others waving Iraqi flags and taking photographs of themselves — while others cooled off in a pool in the garden, an AFP photographer said.

As several thousand other loyalists — many shouting “Moqtada, Moqtada” — headed towards the Green Zone, an AFP journalist reported, the army announced “a full curfew in the capital Baghdad” starting from 3:30 pm (1230 GMT).

Iraq is in a political deadlock since legislative elections in October last year. This has left the country without a government, president or a prime minister. There is disagreement between several factions over formation of a coalition.

Also Read | Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr says he’s quitting politics in bombshell announcement

The curfew was declared after reports of firing inside Green Zone.

Witnesses told AFP that the shots were fired by supporters of a rival Shiite bloc, the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, hours after Sadr announced his “definitive retirement” from politics amid a protracted political crisis.

(With inputs from agencies)

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