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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Four Die in Basra Clashes As Iraq Spirals into Chaos

The crisis amounts to a rigorous power struggle between the powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and mostly Iran-aligned Shi'ite parties and paramilitary groups

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IRAQ: Clashes and conflicts among rival Shi’ite Muslim militants in the Iraqi city of Basra resulted in the deaths of four people, security officials confirmed on Thursday, as violence from a worsening political crisis hit the south of the country.

The tumultuous situation in the streets began with two days of intense fighting in Baghdad earlier in the week, some of the worst clashes that the Iraqi capital has witnessed in years.

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The crisis amounts to a rigorous power struggle between the powerful Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and mostly Iran-aligned Shi’ite parties and paramilitary groups.

Both sides have fought over each other to gain control over the formation of a new government since an election in October.

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The battle started with political moves in the parliament and the judiciary, reached the streets as Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew from the political arena and staged protests during the summer, and then denigrated into violence at the end of August.

Consequently, Iraq has been plunged into utter chaos – stained with years of political conflict, civil rebellion, sanctions, the pandemic and corruption without a government since the 2003 U.S. interference which toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

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The conflicts are centred mainly around the south where the Shi’ite Muslim community has a strong majority. This majority has ruled over the country since Saddam’s exit.

“The security situation in Basra is really bad, and could escalate,” one of the security officials said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to give statements to the media.

Both security officials in Basra said the deadliest clashes took place overnight in the centre of the city. They also added that two of those killed were members of Sadr’s Peace Brigades militia.

The gunmen attacked government buildings in Basra early on Thursday morning. The buildings were supposedly occupied by security forces and paramilitary groups with Iranian links.

On successive days of Monday and Tuesday, Baghdad witnessed armed supporters of Sadr clash with security personnel and Iran-allied gunmen after Sadr announced his withdrawal from politics.

Sadr’s announcement fuelled mass protests outside government buildings, where his supporters attacked the site and were subsequently shot at. His militiamen retaliated and the clashes began.

Sadr decided to calm the masses in Baghdad on Tuesday and the riots finally subsided.

However, the obstacles and differences of opinions remain. Sadr is calling for a dissolution of parliament and new elections, and some of his rivals insist on the formation of a government.

Also Read: Iraq’s Influential Muslim Cleric Quits Politics, Sparking Uncertainty


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