An influential Shiite cleric announced Monday that he would resign from Iraqi politics, prompting hundreds of his angry followers to storm the government palace and sparking clashes with security forces. At least 15 protesters were killed.
Protesters loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr pulled down the cement barriers outside the government palace with ropes and breached the palace gates. Many rushed into the lavish salons and marbled halls of the palace, a key meeting place for Iraqi heads of state and foreign dignitaries.
Iraq’s military announced a nationwide curfew, and the caretaker premier suspended Cabinet sessions in response to the violence. Medical officials said dozens of protesters were wounded by gunfire and tear gas and physical altercations with riot police.
As night fell, Saraya Salam, a militia aligned with al-Sadr clashed with the Popular Mobilization Forces security group. A small force from the special forces division and Iraqi Army’s 9th Division also joined to contain the militants as the clashes continued for hours inside the Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.