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Clashes in Iraq's Najaf kill 6 after cleric's followers storm protest camp

February 5, 2020 at 9:30 pm

Poster of Sadrist Movement Leader Muqtada Al-Sadr is seen as Iraqi demonstrators gather at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq on 3 January 2020 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

At least six people were killed in clashes in Iraq’s southern city of Najaf on Wednesday after supporters of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed an anti-government protest camp, medical and security sources said, Reuters reports.

The medical sources said at least 20 more were wounded in the violence but did not provide further details.

The security sources said that supporters of Sadr, known as blue hats for the blue caps they often wear, had tried to clear the area of anti-government protesters, who in turn tried to stop them.

Fights broke out between both groups, the blue hats threw petrol bombs at protester tents and live gunfire rang out shortly afterwards, wounding and killing six people, they said.

Sadr has at different times both supported and abandoned Iraqi protesters who demand a removal of the entire ruling elite.

He urged followers last week to help authorities bring “day to day life” back to Iraq’s streets by clearing roads blocked by sit-ins and ensuring businesses and schools can reopen after months of protests in which nearly 500 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces.

Sadr has also urged the blue hats to allow protests to continue.

READ: Disappearances and kidnappings of Iraq protestors on the rise