Violence in Iraq after religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr announced his withdrawal



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Violence in Iraq after religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr announced his withdrawal

At least 10 Iraqis were killed on Monday after powerful Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr said he would quit politics, prompting his loyalists to attack a government compound in Baghdad and clash with rival Shiite groups. Sadr announced earlier in the day he was quitting politics.

"I hereby announce my final withdrawal," he said on Twitter, criticizing fellow Shi'ite political leaders for failing to heed his calls for reform. He added that “all the institutions” linked to his Sadrist Movement will be closed, except the mausoleum of his father, assassinated in 1999, and other heritage facilities.

The shooting followed powerful Shiite imam Moqtada al-Sadr's announcement that he was leaving politics and previous decisions by his spiritual mentor to step down and try to convince his former disciple to give his allegiance to Iran.

Sadr's supporters, who organized several weeks of rallies in the parliament in the Green Zone, broke through the entrance to the Republican Palace, where government meetings are usually held.

CIVIL CONFLICT

Many Iraqis worry that moves by each Shi'ite camp could lead to new civil conflict.

"The (Iran) loyalists came and burned the tents of Sadrists, and attacked protesters," said Kadhim Haitham, a supporter of Sadr. Pro-Iran groups blamed the Sadrists for the clashes and denied having shot at anyone.

"It's not true - if our people had guns why would they need to throw rocks?" said one militia member, who declined to be identified by name. During the night, clashes broke out between forces loyal to Sadr, who were destroying posters of many Iranian-backed Shiite leaders, including those of Qassem Soleimani, and Shiite groups supported by Iran.

In particular, the resignation of Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri has added a new dynamic to the plot, leading some observers to argue that the fate of Iraq will not be decided in Baghdad, but in one of the two spiritual centers of Shia Islam: Najaf in Iraq and Qom in Iran.