Iraq: Sadrists on ‘high alert’

 Baghdad: AFP

The real test was to be later in the afternoon, when many were expecting supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr — an influential cleric who controls the largest parliamentary bloc — to hit the streets.

His supporters have breached the Green Zone in previous years. This week, he called on them to protest and even instructed members of his own paramilitary force to be on “high alert”.

They could be seen in parts of Baghdad on Friday in a clear show of force.

The movement is unprecedented in recent Iraqi history both because of its spontaneity and independence, and because of the brutal violence with which a torrent of protests on October 1-6 was met.

At least 157 people were killed in early October, according to a government probe published on Tuesday, which acknowledged that “excessive force” was used.

A vast majority of them were protesters in Baghdad, with 70 percent shot in the head or chest.

Some have backed the government, including the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force whose political branch is the second-largest parliamentary bloc.

 

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