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23 killed after Iraqi cleric quits politics

Gunshots and rocket-fire rang out as supporters of Iraqi cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr clashed with security forces and militias aligned with Iran.

According to BBC, twenty-three persons have been killed in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad sparked by a key leader’s decision to quit politics.

A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was alarmed by events and called for “immediate steps to de-escalate the situation.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s caretaker prime minister declared a nationwide curfew after the unrest spread to several other cities.

The 48 year old has been a dominant figure in Iraqi public and political life for the past two decades.

His forces were prominent in fighting US troops after the 2003 invasion.

Mr Sadr in a statement says ”he had decided not to interfere in political affairs, but I now announce my final retirement and the closure of all institutions”.

Mr Sadr, one of Iraq’s most recognisable figures with his black turban, dark eyes and heavy set build, had championed ordinary Iraqis hit by high unemployment, continual power cuts and corruption.

Writing by Marian Benjamin,Editing by Adeniyi Bakare