Days of pro-Muqtada Sadr protests and unrest have reportedly resulted in Baghdad’s high secure Green Zone being breached Monday, placing international diplomatic missions and foreign embassies under threat.
AFP is reporting that an exchange of gunfire has been observed as dozens or possibly hundreds of supporters riot, with police using riot control measures like water cannons to repel an attack on the Green Zone. There are unconfirmed reports that the sprawling and iconic Iraqi Republican Palace has been forcibly breached with protesters inside.
The fresh unrest appears to be in response to Sadr being pressured to exit politics, with the influential Shia cleric tweeting earlier in the day, “Earlier I decided that I would not interfere in political affairs. And now I announce my final retirement (from politics) and the closure of all institutions (belonging to the Sadr movement).”
The past months have witness periodic unrest as Shia factions struggle to form a government, which has also resulted in sporadic violence amid gridlock in parliament. Against this backdrop, for the last two years pro-Iran militia groups have launched occasional rocket attacks on US bases and even at times the heavily fortified American embassy. Sadr’s supporters believe there’s a conspiracy against him.
Though as yet unconfirmed from the US side, there are widespread reports that the United States Embassy which is located inside the Green Zone is currently being evacuated.
Convoys of international vehicles have also been seen speeding from the areas of unrest, exiting the confines of the Green Zone.