Iraqi protesters withdraw after Al Sadr orders them off Baghdad streets

Nationwide curfew lifted following the cleric's speech after missiles launched from east of capital

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Followers of Iraq's Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr left Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Tuesday after he called for their withdrawal, ending violence that has left at least 30 people dead and hundreds injured.

Mr Al Sadr, who has millions of followers, gave his supporters 60 minutes to leave the capital otherwise he would "distance" himself from them after deadly clashes that gripped the nation.

“The spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden,” Mr Al Sadr said in a press conference televised nationally.

The cleric appealed for calm and said he was disappointed and “saddened” by what has happened to the country.

“I was hoping for a peaceful protest but what has happened is not a protest. This is not the way to end corruption,” he said.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi praised Mr Al Sadr's call to end the violence seen across Baghdad and other governorates.

Following Mr Al Sadr's statement, the army immediately announced that a nationwide curfew, which was put in place on Monday at 7pm, had been lifted.

Official government working hours were suspended across Iraq on Tuesday morning following the unrest in Baghdad for a second day after Mr Al Sadr announced he was quitting political life.

His supporters stormed a government palace on Monday and fought with rival groups.

They also surrounded the Basrah refinery, which produces 210,000 barrels of oil per day, reports said.

Iraq's oil exports were unaffected on Tuesday by the turmoil, Reuters reported.

At least 30 people were confirmed dead after being shot in Baghdad's Green Zone, according to the latest death toll from AFP.

Iraqi security forces said on Tuesday that four rockets landed in the fortified zone, damaging residences.

The Iraqi Security Media Cell said the missiles were launched from the Al Habibiya and Al Baladiyat areas east of the capital.

The General Secretariat of the Iraqi Council of Ministers announced late on Monday that it was suspending official public working hours on Tuesday in all provinces because of the security situation, the Iraqi News Agency reported.

Iran closed its land borders with Iraq and halted flights to the country on Tuesday.

Iranian state television said unrest and curfews in Iraqi cities were to blame for the border closures. Tehran urged citizens to avoid any travel to Iraq, while asking Iranian Shiite pilgrims in Iraq to avoid travel between cities.

Iran's closure of its borders to Iraq comes two weeks before the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage, when millions of pilgrims from neighbouring Iran and other countries go to the Iraqi city of Karbala.

Arbaeen is one of the largest Shiite religious gatherings. It marks the end of the 40 days of mourning after the anniversary of the killing of Imam Hussein at the battle of Karbala in 680.

Emirates has cancelled flights to and from Baghdad following reports of civil unrest and curfews in Iraq, the Dubai-based airline said.

“Customers connecting to Baghdad will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin,” Emirates said.

“We regret the inconvenience caused to our customers.”

Flydubai has also cancelled flights to Baghdad on Tuesday and Wednesday following the deadly clashes in the Iraqi capital.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” an airline representative told The National.

The airline is advising passengers who have bought tickets for travel to Baghdad to call the flydubai contact centre in Dubai to rebook or request a refund.

Iraq’s government has been in deadlock since Mr Al Sadr’s party won the largest share of seats in parliamentary elections in October last year, but not enough to secure a majority government.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 4:24 PM
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