Clashes in Iraq continue, four killed in Basra
By Nathan Morley
Four people have been killed in battles among rival Shia Muslim militants in Basra overnight.
This spate of armed fights in Iraq follows the latest round of an ongoing political emergency after Shia religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr announced his retirement from politics.
At just 48-years-old, he is one of the most powerful religious figures in Iraqi politics.
But a troublesome political deadlock between al-Sadr and his opponents has left the country without a government since an October election, in which his supporters surfaced as the biggest party, but crucially without a majority.
Then in June, all 73 members of parliament in his bloc stepped down. Furious over a deteriorating economy and high unemployment rates, supporters of al-Sadr started holding sit-ins at the Iraqi parliament in July, demanding everything from early elections to constitutional revisions.
This past week has been especially tense. Four people were killed in clashes between rival Shia Muslim fighters in Iraq’s main oil-producing hub of Basra on Wednesday night.
Protests in Baghdad
Elsewhere, at least 30 people were killed earlier this week in the capital Baghdad when supporters of al-Sadr clashed with security forces and Iran-allied gunmen, leaving 700 wounded.
The fighting has raised fears of acceleration into a Shia-Shia civil war.
It has also intensified dysfunction and uncertainty as the public struggle to move on from years of war, strife, and rampant corruption.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden urged Iraqis to resolve the country's political crisis through a "national dialogue."
In a phone call with Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister, Biden said he supported "a sovereign and independent Iraq."
Commentators say unless a proper solution is reached, more protests and violence are possible.
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