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Drone targets Iraqi cleric Sadr’s home

A supporter of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr at a rally in Najaf on Saturday.

A supporter of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr at a rally in Najaf on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: HAIDAR HAMDANI

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This comes a day after armed men attacked anti-govt. protesters, killing 17

An armed drone targeted the home of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr on Saturday, hours after his supporters deployed in Baghdad in response to an attack that left 17 protesters dead. The developments marked a worrying turn for the anti-government protests rocking Iraq since October, the country’s largest and deadliest grass-roots movement in decades.

The mostly young protesters in the capital’s iconic Tahrir Square had long feared a spiral into chaos, and on Friday it appeared their apprehensions were well-placed. After nightfall, armed men on pick-up trucks attacked a large building where protesters had been camped out for weeks near the capital’s Al-Sinek bridge.

Attack creates panic

Security forces deployed on the bridge itself did not intervene, witnesses said, as the attackers ousted protesters from the building in a volley of gunfire.

At least 17 people were killed and dozens more wounded, medics said, with ambulances shuttling teenagers suffering gunshot and stab wounds to nearby field clinics.

Panicked demonstrators rushed out into the street, sending out calls through social media for people to come to their main gathering place in Tahrir Square.

By Saturday morning, hundreds had arrived. Many of the new arrivals were suspected to be members of Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), the paramilitary group headed by Mr. Sadr.

Mr. Sadr has backed the protests, but demonstrators have been wary of his support as they feared it could pave the way for confrontations with pro-government forces.

Early on Saturday, a drone dropped a bomb on his home in the shrine city of Najaf, damaging the exterior wall, said sources within his party.

Mr. Sadr, a notoriously versatile figure, is currently in Iran.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 1:17:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/drone-targets-iraqi-cleric-sadrs-home/article30233168.ece

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