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‘This is not a revolution’: Protesters ordered to leave Baghdad’s govt quarter after 22 killed

Following violent demonstrations that saw more than 20 deaths, Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Iraqi cleric, has called on his supporters to leave Baghdad’s government Quarter.

After Mr. Al-Sadr declared he was quitting Iraqi politics, and ordered the closing of his party offices, hundreds stormed the Green Zone in .

A number of demonstrators were injured by gunfire, while a dozen others were hurt by tear gas or altercations with police, according to medical officials.

Image Following Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi cleric, fled the streets following his plea

Officials claim that at least 22 people were killed.

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Loyalists were told by Mr al-Sadr to leave the government quarter in an hour and ten minutes.

In a televised speech, the cleric stated that “this is not a revolution.” He made the remarks following pleas for peace and restraint from officials in Iraq and the United Nations.

A nationwide curfew was declared in response to the unrest at 7pm. It was lifted on Tuesday.

More information on Baghdad

His party, Mr al-Sadr, won the largest number of seats in the October parliamentary elections but not enough to form a majority government.

The country ended up in political chaos after Mr. al-Sadr refused to negotiate with Iran-backed Shiite rivals. He also pulled out of the talks.

Analyse



Alex Rossi

International correspondent


@alexrossiSKY

It is difficult to predict where the political chaos will lead after Muqtada al-Sadr, a powerful and controversial Shiite leader, announced that he would be leaving politics.

His supporters continue to protest on the streets. There are ongoing clashes between security services and police – at least 22 people have been killed.

The sudden announcement by the influential cleric saw hundreds of his followers march to the Green Zone, where they broke the Green Zone.

He ordered loyalists to vacate the government quarters in an hour on Tuesday. Minutes later, some were seen departing.

Since October’s elections, political paralysis has gripped the country. A temporary government is now in place.

Although Mr al-Sadr was the winner of the largest number of seats, there are deep divisions between rival Shiite parties – loyal Iran – who control most of the other seats.

He tried to form a coalition of minority parties with him, breaking with the tradition that government formation is a function of the main political actors.

He was trying to get rid of his Shiite rival, former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, who is aligned in Iran factions.

Although street protests are common in Iraq, there is some anxiety about the potential consequences.



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Continue reading: Protest over the nomination of PM in Iraq

His resignation appears to have been in response to the retirement Shiite spiritual leader Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri. Many of his supporters follow him.

Hundreds of protestors climbed down the cement barriers at the government palace and broke its defenses. Many of them ran into the marbled halls of the building during Monday’s demonstrations.

Photographs showed many protesters swimming in the palace pool. Some held up pictures of Mr al-Sadr.

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