This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his loyalists in the Green Zone to withdraw after nearly 24 hours of fierce clashes with security forces and rival Iran-backed Shi’ite groups that left at least 30 dead.
In a televised speech on August 30, Sadr gave his supporters, hundreds of whom stormed the government palace and have been holding an ongoing sit-in outside the parliament building, an hour to leave.
At least 380 others were wounded in the unrest on August 29 that erupted following Sadr’s announcement that he would resign from politics.
Iran closed its land borders to Iraq on August 30 as flights to the country were halted amid the violence.
The decision came as millions of Iranians were preparing to visit Iraq for an annual pilgrimage to Shi’ite sites.
Iranian state television cited “unrest” and a “curfew” in Iraqi cities as the reason for the border closures. It urged Iranians to avoid any travel to Iraq while warning Iran’s pilgrims in Iraq to avoid travel between cities.
Meanwhile, Kuwait urged its citizens in Iraq to leave the country. The state-run KUNA news agency also encouraged those hoping to travel to Iraq to delay their plans because of the eruption of violent street clashes between rival groups in the country.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) called the unrest “an extremely dangerous escalation” and also urged all sides to “refrain from acts that could lead to an unstoppable chain of events.”