IRAQ: On Monday, Iraq’s most influential and powerful Shi’ite Muslim Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced his retirement from politics as well as the final shutdown of his institutions in response to an intractable political dead end. His decision to quit has raised alarms of instability and uncertainty in the country.
“I hereby announce my final withdrawal,” Sadr said in a statement posted on Twitter, criticizing fellow Shi’ite political leaders for their failure in implementing his suggested reforms.
Iran has closed its land borders with Iraq as flights to the country ground to a halt amid violence in Baghdad after an influential Shiite cleric announced he was stepping down from politics.
The death toll rose to 20 on Tuesday after riots broke out the previous day, a senior medical official said.
The Iraqi military said four rockets were fired into the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government, where armed clashes raged overnight between militia loyal to Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi security forces.
Iranian state television cited “riots” and “curfews” in Iraqi cities as the reason for the border closure. He urged Iranians not to travel to Iraq while urging Iranian Shia pilgrims in Iraq to avoid further travel between cities.
The decision came as millions of Iranians prepared to visit Iraq for the annual pilgrimage to Shiite sites.
Meanwhile, Kuwait urged its citizens in neighbouring Iraq to leave the country. The state news agency KUNA also encouraged those hoping to travel to Iraq to postpone their plans due to an eruption of violent street clashes between rival Shiite groups in the country.
The Gulf Arab sheikhdom of Kuwait shares a 158-mile border with Iraq.
Dubai’s long-haul airline Emirates suspended flights to Baghdad on Tuesday in response to the unrest in Iraq. He says he is closely monitoring the situation. It did not say whether flights would resume on Wednesday.
Demonstrators loyal to Sadr, who resigned on Monday, used ropes to tear down a cement barrier outside the government palace and breached the palace gates. Many flocked to the lavish salons and marble halls of the palace, a key meeting place for Iraqi heads of state and foreign dignitaries.
The Iraqi army declared a nationwide curfew and the interim prime minister suspended a cabinet meeting in response to the violence. Medics said dozens of protesters were injured by gunfire and tear gas and clashes with riot police.
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