Supporters of Shiite cleric Al-Sadr take part in a protest at the government palace compound in Baghdad. Photo: Ameer Al-Mohammedawi/dpa
Medical circles also informed the German Press Agency late Monday evening that 160 people had been injured in clashes with security forces. Iraqi forces fired shots and tear gas to evict protesters from the government palace. Shortly before the storm, the 48-year-old clergyman had announced his retirement from politics. The office of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kasimi is located in the building in what is actually a highly secured Green Zone.
This further intensifies the political crisis in Iraq after demonstrators broke into the parliament building a month ago. Ten months after the parliamentary elections, the parties are still unable to agree on a president or a head of government, while the country is groaning under an economic crisis, inflation and corruption. Although al-Sadr’s movement emerged as the clear winner in the election, it failed to secure the important two-thirds majority required for the presidential election. This created a political stalemate.
For the second time since 2014, al-Sadr has announced his retirement from politics. Less than two hours after the announcement, demonstrators poured into the Green Zone. The protesters removed barriers and climbed over fences. Security forces tried to disperse the crowd with water cannons. The siege of the palace continued despite a curfew in place from mid-afternoon. Witnesses reported hearing gunshots inside the Green Zone late in the evening.