Iraq: Tense calm in Baghdad after cleric issues appeal

The deadly fighting in Iraq’s capital appears to have subsided, after the figure at the centre of the crisis told his supporters to end their protests.

Hundreds of people who had been camped outside parliament in Baghdad for weeks dispersed as instructed by influential Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

On Monday, at least 23 of his followers were killed in clashes with security forces and militias aligned with Iran.

The violence erupted after Mr Sadr said he was withdrawing from political life.

His announcement followed months of deadlock over the formation of a new government. Observers said Mr Sadr’s move might be tactical, having declared his political retirement more than once before.

Mr Sadr’s bloc won the most seats in elections last October but he would not agree to a coalition with the second largest bloc, comprised mainly of rival, Iran-backed Shia parties.

Once an Iranian ally, Mr Sadr has repositioned himself as a nationalist wanting to end US and Iranian influence…

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