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Iraq’s Sadr orders his followers to stand down as Baghdad riots’ death toll rises

Iraq’s Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers to end their protests in central Baghdad on Tuesday, easing a confrontation which led to the deadliest violence in the Iraqi capital in years, leaving 23 people dead.

Sadr apologised to Iraqis for the casualties resulting from clashes between an armed group loyal to him and rival Shi’ite Muslim factions backed by Iran, he condemned the fighting and gave his followers one hour to disperse.

This is not a revolution because it has lost its peaceful character,” the Shi’ite cleric said in a televised address. “The spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden,” he emphasised.

As the deadline passed at around 2 pm local time (11:00 AM GMT), Sadr’s followers could be seen leaving the area in the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad where the occupied government offices are located.

Heavy clashes in Baghdad

Clashes on Monday, which killed nearly 20 people, jolted Iraq into new violence as supporters of the Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a former anti-US insurgent leader, faced off with Shi’ite armed groups, mostly loyal to Iran.

A prolonged political deadlock after the October election, during which the two camps have been competing for power, has given the country its longest run without a government and led to new unrest as Iraq struggles to recover from decades of conflict. Read full story.

Disaster unfolding in Baghdad #Iraq tonight. Video shows live ammunition, heavy gunfire, rockets fired over Green Zone where protestors are being pushed away. Full implosion:

— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 29, 2022

Iran reopens border with Iraq

Iran reopened its border with Iraq to travellers on Tuesday shortly after Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on his supporters to withdraw from the streets, state media reported.

“As security and calm have been restored in Iraq, all borders are open now,” state TV quoted an Iranian official saying.

Tehran had closed its borders and halted flights to Iraq amid an eruption of violence in the neighbouring country following Sadr’s announcement on Monday that he would quit politics.

#Iranian authorities have temporarily closed the border with #Iraq for security reasons

This decision was made against the backdrop of mass riots that began in #Baghdad. According to local media, the death toll has risen to 30 people. Over 700 were injured.

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) August 30, 2022

Earlier, state TV said Iran had halted all flights to Iraq “until further notice because of the ongoing unrest”. “We are trying to arrange an emergency flight to bring back Iranians from Iraq and Baghdad who are currently at the airport. We hope to evacuate them today,” state TV cited a senior aviation authority as saying.

Millions of Iranians travel to the Iraqi city of Karbala every year for the ritual of Arbaeen, which marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, Imam Hussein. Arbaeen is supposed to take place on September 16-17 this year.

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