Iraq's Sadr cancels Baghdad visit as tensions over election results rise
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has canceled a visit to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad as clashes between Iraqi police forces, and supporters of Iran-aligned militias continued into the night on Friday.
Read More: Iraqi leaders call for restraint as post-election violence escalates
Sadr has cut short his planned "visit to the capital, Baghdad, to denounce the unjustified violence and the deliberate weakening of the state," media affiliated with the Sadrist Movement said.
It added that the mercurial cleric calls on his followers to "exercise the highest degree of self-restraint."
The Sadrist Movement was the top winner in the Oct. 10 election, with over 70 seats in the 329-seat legislature, preliminary official results indicate. After a poor showing compared to the previous election cycle, political representatives of Iran-aligned militias have rejected the outcome.
Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission has been working to resolve official complaints alleging irregularities in the vote. However, a manual recount of nearly 25 percent of all polling stations has reportedly not yielded any significant changes in the outcome.
Echoing concerns about the increasingly tense political and security situation, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said late Friday it "regrets the escalation of violence and the ensuing injuries in Baghdad."
"We call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint, for the right to peaceful protest to be respected, and for the demonstrations to remain peaceful," UNAMI concluded in a tweet.