Iraqi protesters storm Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone amid political crisis

Violence in Iraq continued for the second day as militants fired rockets at Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone on Tuesday, Iraq’s military said. Earlier, sounds of sustained gunfire and rockets rang through the night. The violence between rival Shiite Muslim groups has killed more than 20 people since it broke out on Monday. At least 380 people were also injured.

Iraq’s military announced a nationwide curfew as gunmen cruised empty streets in pickup trucks carrying machine guns and brandishing grenade launchers. The caretaker premier of Iraq suspended Cabinet sessions.

How the unrest started

The violent confrontation erupted after Moqtada al-Sadr, a powerful cleric and a former anti-US insurgent leader, announced he would resign from politics. Al-Sadr had won the most seats in the elections last October but failed to form a government after refusing to negotiate with Iran-backed Shi’ite groups to form a government.

Al-Sadr’s followers have organized street protests and occupied government buildings to block political activity, which has fueled tensions culminating in the violence since Monday. His militia numbers in the thousands and has millions of loyal supporters.

The clashes occurred between al-Sadr’s supporters and the army and men of the Hashed al-Shaabi, former paramilitaries integrated into the Iraqi forces. These heavily-armed paramilitary groups are trained by Iran.

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