After the escalation of violence in Iraq, the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to withdraw. If they don't end their siege of the government district within an hour, he will withdraw from his own movement, al-Sadr said in a televised speech on Tuesday. It makes him sad what happened in Iraq. He had hoped for peaceful protests. "I apologize to the Iraqi people," the Shiite cleric continued.
The month-long power struggle between al-Sadr's movement and his political opponents had previously turned violent. Militias from both sides fought in the heavily secured Green Zone in the center of the capital Baghdad. According to the Iraqi security forces, four rockets hit the area where the US embassy is located. According to information from hospitals, security circles and eyewitnesses, at least 25 people died and around 450 were injured.
Al-Sadr's supporters had besieged parliament in recent weeks. On Monday they stormed and occupied the government palace that houses Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kasimi's office.
Al-Sadr's movement emerged as the strongest force in last October's parliamentary elections. However, he failed to form a government. He refused to cooperate with the pro-Iranian parties. In this political stalemate, al-Sadr called for the dissolution of parliament and new elections, which his opponents oppose. At the same time, the preacher relied on the pressure of the street.