At least 13 people have been killed and over 350 people have been injured in clashes between Iraqi security forces and supporters of the powerful Shia cleric’s Sadrist movement in the capital, Baghdad, Artı Gerçek reported.
Much of the fighting has been concentrated around the city’s Green Zone, an area that houses government buildings and foreign embassies.
The violence began when protesters loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the presidential palace after Sadr announced his retirement from politics 10 months after he had emerged as the winner in the October elections.
The violence was between the Peace Brigades, a militia loyal to Sadr, and members of the Iraqi military.
Some fighters used heavy weaponry, including rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) according to Artı Gerçek.
“I had decided to not interfere in political affairs and I now announce my definitive retirement and the closure of all institutions,” Sadr said in his statement on Monday, adding that the holy shrine, the holy museum, and Sadr’s heritage authority would be the only places left open.
Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has declared a nationwide curfew after unrest in several other Iraqi cities.
He suspended cabinet meetings and called on Sadr “to stop the violence.”
Sadr announced a hunger strike until the violence and use of weapons by all sides has stopped.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) called on Monday, on “all parties to refrain from violence immediately as restraint and calm are necessary in order to let the voice of reason to prevail.”
The European Union mission in Iraq also called on Monday, on all parties in Iraq to maintain the utmost restraint.