Sadr militia, supporters kill 8 Iraqi protesters and wound dozens in Najaf: reports

Sadr's followers and militiamen raided a protest camp in Najaf, burning tents and shooting demonstrators to disperse them.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Followers and militiamen of the Sadrist Movement led by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr allegedly killed at least eight protesters and wounded dozens more as they stormed areas where demonstrations took place in the Iraqi city of Najaf late Wednesday.

Members of the “blue hats” supporters of Sadr and his militia group Saraya al-Salam raided a protest camp in Najaf, burning tents and shooting demonstrators to disperse them as a confrontation grew more violent.

Reuters cited medical and security sources in a report saying at least eight people had been killed while 20 others had been wounded. Local al-Dijla TV cited sources that said close to 140 protesters had been wounded, including six members of the security forces who were attempting to break up the two sides.

Dijla TV also wrote that similar clashes occurred in other parts of Iraq, including Baghdad, Diwaniya, Karbala, and Dhi Qar, among others, with Sadr supporters cracking down to quell the demonstrations. One protester had been killed in the capital’s Wathba Square.

This marks one of the deadliest nights of a crackdown against anti-government protesters since they took to the streets in October, during which members of the Iraqi security have killed at least 550 demonstrators and wounded tens of thousands more, according to official data by the parliamentary human rights commission.

Protesters demand a better standard of living and an end to institutional corruption. Iranian-backed militias have been accused of carrying out part of the violence, targeting demonstrators and activists with sniper rifles and carrying out targeted assassinations.

As demonstrations kicked off in October 2019, Sadr announced his support for them. But, in recent days, he has switched positions multiple times, leading to many questioning his initial motive for backing the protests.

Related Article: More Iraqi protesters dead as crackdown intensifies, Sadr withdraws support

Last week, Iraqi President Barham Salih officially designated Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi to form a cabinet to await a vote of confidence by the national legislature. This is after outgoing Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi resigned in early December after days of violence that have been the bloodiest since protests began.

Sadr expressed his support for Allawi and decided to turn on demonstrators, calling on his supporters to withdraw from protests and, instead, attack those still voicing their opposition to Allawi, whom they consider to be part of a ruling elite that would continue to ignore the public’s demand.

Amid the developing violence in Najaf, Allawi called on the security forces to protect protesters.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany