At least 15 protesters were killed after heavy clashes erupted between security forces and supporters of a prominent and influential Shia cleric in Iraq’s Baghdad on Tuesday.
Protesters loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr pulled down the cement barriers outside the government palace with ropes and breached the palace gates.
According to the report, the Iraqi military announced a nationwide curfew and the caretaker prime minister suspended Cabinet meetings in response to violence. Several protesters were injured by gunfire, tear gas, and physical altercations with riot police.
A small force from the special forces division and the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division also joined to contain the militants as the clashes continued for hours inside the Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.
At least one soldier from the special forces division, which is responsible for security in the Green Zone, was killed. Many others, including a civilian woman, were wounded, two security officials said. Several mortar rounds were heard.
According to security officials, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were used in the clashes, which were the result of an unresolvable political impasse between the opposing camps.
Since al-party Sadr's received the highest number of seats in the October legislative elections, but not enough to win a majority government, Iraq's government has remained deadlocked
His refusal to negotiate with his Shiite rivals who are supported by Iran and his subsequent withdrawal from those negotiations have plunged the nation into political unrest and instability as internal Shiite strife grows more intense.
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