Machine-gun fire and explosions rocked the Green Zone in Baghdad. Clashes were prompted by an influential Shi'ite cleric's announcement to quit politics.
At least 20 people were killed and several others sustained injuries after powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he would quit politics. Sadr's announcement prompted his loyalists to storm a government palace and fight with Iran-backed Shi'ite rival groups.
In what is being called the worst fighting Baghdad has seen in years, machine-gun fire and explosions rocked the Green Zone that houses government headquarters and foreign embassies. In several videos posted on the Internet, tracer fire could be seen rising into the sky.
A Twitter user shared a video of the clashes with the caption -- "Apparently, a full-scale civil war has begun in Iraq."
Apparently, a full-scale civil war has begun in Iraq.#Iraq
pic.twitter.com/AoCJS95GiZ— 301 Military (@301military) August 29, 2022
Another user wrote, "Green Zone is a battlefield" while sharing another video of the deadly clashes.
— Tammuz Intel (@Tammuz_Intel) August 29, 2022
The announcement to quit politics by Moqtada al-Sadr, who is the heir to a prominent clerical dynasty, came a day after other Shi'ite leaders and parties "failed to reform a corrupt and decaying governing system". However, Sadr has advocated against the use of weapons by all sides and has even sat on a hunger strike to urge people to shun violence.
Iraq is currently on the brink of a full-blown civil war amid a political standoff between Sadr's followers and Shi'ite Muslim rivals, who are openly backed by Iran. The civil war threat haunts Iraq at a time when the country is struggling to recover from decades of war, sanctions, civil strife and endemic corruption.
The rivalry between the two groups has escalated in Iraq since October last year when Sadr’s movement emerged as the biggest bloc with 74 of parliament’s 329 seats. Meanwhile, the share of Iran-backed factions slumped to 17 from the previous 48.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)