Followers of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the Presidential Palace in Baghdad on Monday after the influential religious leader announced his withdrawal from Iraqi politics, while authorities tried to contain the situation by decreeing a curfew in the capital. .
“The Joint Operations Command announces a curfew in the capital, Baghdad, which includes vehicles and all citizens, starting at 3:30 p.m. local time (12:30 GMT) today, Monday,” says an official statement, which it does not indicate when the measurement will end.
The announcement has come at a time when hundreds of Al Sadr supporters, camped for four weeks in front of Parliament, have entered the fortified “Green Zone” and stormed the Presidential Palace and the seat of government.
The acting Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al Kazemi, has confirmed in a statement the entry of the protesters into the Government Palace, and has announced the suspension of the sessions of the Executive “until further notice”. For its part, a source from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command has confirmed to Efe that “the protesters entered the Presidential Palace” in the fortified “Green Zone”, which also houses the headquarters of the main institutions of the Judiciary, including the Federal Supreme Court.
According to the US agency Associated Pressat least one protester has been killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces, who have used tear gas, gunfire and pushed back the crowd.
Hundreds of protesters
The entry of hundreds of Al Sadr’s followers into the Green Zone after breaking the concrete barriers installed at its entrances has taken place after the influential cleric announced in a statement that he “is definitely withdrawing” from Iraqi politics.
Images on social networks show dozens of protesters, in the entrances, rooms and even the swimming pool of the Presidential Palace, as well as the presence of reinforcements from the security forces inside the Green Zone, although they have avoided confronting the protesters.
Al Sadr has announced his withdrawal in the midst of political paralysis due to the impossibility of the fragmented Parliament resulting from last October’s elections to elect a new president and a prime minister in charge of forming a government. Al Sadr’s movement won the October elections with 73 of the 329 seats in the Legislative.
“I had decided not to intervene in political affairs, but now I announce my definitive withdrawal and the closure of all institutions (headquarters)” of the Sadrist Bloc, the Iraqi leader, who has been conditioning the country’s politics since the beginning of the century, said in a statement. .
After the announcement of Al Sadr’s withdrawal from politics, the Iraqi president, Barham Saleh, met with Al Kazemi and with the leaders of Parliament and the Judiciary to address the situation and announced a new session this week of the ” national dialogue” started in the middle of the month, which they urged to join Al Sadr, absent from the previous appointment.
The United Nations mission in Iraq has warned that Monday’s incidents in Baghdad represent “an extremely dangerous escalation.” “The UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq) urges everyone to remain calm, cooperate with the security forces and avoid actions that could trigger an unstoppable chain of events,” it says in a statement warning that “The survival of the (Iraqi) state is at stake.”
The note has urged protesters to leave the seized government buildings and “immediately” leave the Green Zone. It also calls on “all political actors” to “work to reduce tension and restore dialogue as the only means to resolve differences” and asserts that “respect for the constitutional order will now be vital.”
The UN mission, which already earlier this month warned of the risk of an escalation in the face of the paralysis that the country is experiencing. The political tension has accelerated in the last month with the occupation of the Iraqi Parliament by the Sadrists for a week and the subsequent encampment at its gates, after which the acting prime minister summoned all political forces to a process of “dialogue”. national”, but this was boycotted by al-Sadr. “Iraqis cannot be held hostage to an unpredictable and unsustainable situation,” UNAMI states in its statement.