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Situation tense in Iraq as death toll from violent clashes mounts

Fighting between rival Iraqi forces has raged for a second day, with rocket fire echoing from Baghdad’s Green Zone where several supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al Sadr have been shot dead, medics said.

On Tuesday morning, medics updated the toll of Sadr supporters killed to 23, with some 380 others injured – some with bullet wounds and others suffering tear gas inhalation.

Tensions have soared in Iraq amid a political crisis that has left the country without a new government, prime minister or president for months, and escalated sharply after Sadr’s supporters on Monday afternoon stormed the government palace following their leader’s announcement that he was quitting politics.

The violence pitches backers of Sadr against rival Shia factions backed by neighbouring Iran.

The United Nations mission in Iraq warned of “an extremely dangerous escalation” and called on all sides to “refrain from acts that could lead to an unstoppable chain of events”.

“The very survival of the state is at stake,” it warned.

But amid an army-imposed nationwide curfew that continued Tuesday, Baghdad was otherwise quiet, with shops shuttered and few cars venturing out on the streets.

The Framework condemned an “attack on state institutions”, urging the Sadrists to engage in “dialogue”.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi said “security or military forces, or armed men” were prohibited from opening fire on protesters.

READ MORE: Iraq’s cleric Muqtada al Sadr quits politics

‘Postpone visits to Baghdad’

Late on Monday, Türkiye urged its citizens to postpone visits to Baghdad due to the security situation in the country, except in cases where it was necessary. 

Issuing a travel alert for Iraq, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said: “It would be beneficial for our citizens currently in Iraq to stay away from places where mass demonstrations are held in Baghdad, to follow additional warnings and announcements made by our Ministry and Embassy in Baghdad, and to be vigilant for their personal safety,” it added.

In a separate statement, the Foreign Ministry said Türkiye is “concerned” about the developments in “brotherly” Iraq.

The stability and security of friendly and brotherly Iraq is of vital importance for Türkiye, the ministry said.

Neighbouring Iran closed its land borders to Iraq as flights to the country halted amid the violence in Baghdad.

READ MORE: Curfew set in Iraq as deadly clashes erupt after Shia cleric quits politics

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