Powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his supporters to go home on Tuesday, 24 hours after his announcement of withdrawal from politics prompted his loyalists to rampage through the capital’s streets in a show of force.
If [protesters] do not withdraw, including from parliament, within 60 minutes I will disavow the movement itself,” he said during a press conference in the holy city of Najaf. “
At least 21 people were killed and more than 250 injured in clashes that erupted after al-Sadr announced his “final retirement” from politics Monday and said he was closing down his political offices across the country.
His backers subsequently stormed the capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone and the Republican Palace, where the cabinet meets. Protesters were seen swimming in the palace’s pool and waving Iraqi flags, while others clashed with Iraqi security forces in what turned out to be some of the deadliest violence seen in Baghdad in years.