Clashes between Iran-backed militants and followers of the influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the southern Iraqi city of Basra continued overnight into Thursday, causing several casualties.
According to security officials, at least four people were killed in the center of Basra, Iraq's main oil-producing center, in the latest bout of violence as the country is struggling with a political crisis that pits followers of the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr against Iran-aligned parties and paramilitary groups.
According to Iran International’s correspondent, among those killed overnight was an Iraqi army commander who was shot dead by the militias of the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq forces, affiliated with the Islamic Republic.
Urging the Iran-backed group to control their forces, Sadr’s spokesman warned Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq against reckless behavior.
Violence erupted in Iraq this week as armed supporters of Sadr fought with security forces and Iran-aligned gunmen in Baghdad in the fiercest street battles the capital has seen for years. Relative calm had been restored after Sadr urged all his supporters to leave the streets following the clashes that killed about 30 people. The unrest initially broke out on Monday, August 29, hours after Sadr announced he was quitting politics.
An intractable political deadlock between the two rival Shiite camps has left Iraq without a government since an October election, in which the Sadrist bloc won the most seats but was unable to gain its share of political power after months of haggling that has failed to produce a new administration. The Sadrists withdrew from parliament June 13, prompting supporters to storm the building in July and remain encamped outside ever since.