The Najaf home of the Iraqi Shiite nationalist leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, has been struck by a drone of unknown origin, according to an announcement by his Sadarist organisation.
Saleh Muhammad al-Iraqi, an official of the Sadarist organisation who is said to be close to Mr Sadr, issued a statement on social media that garnered tens of thousands of likes on Facebook and which said that the leader’s house had been struck by a drone. Mr Sadr was out of the country at the time of the attack.
Mr Iraqi added that it is believed Mr Sadr was struck “in response to orders issued by al-Sadr” to protect the large-scale protests in Baghdad who have been attacked by masked gunmen in recent days.
“The important thing is to protect the demonstrators and their security, and what is also important is the safety of the country and the love of the country,” he added.
In recent days, Mr Sadr dispatched his so-called ‘Peace Brigades’ to the protestors main stage of Tahrir Square to protect them from violent attacks by political opponents.
The attack against Mr Sadr may come as a shock to many due to the fact that he is a highly influential cleric and leader who earned his stripes leading a militia that fought American and British forces following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The development comes amidst an increasingly volatile situation in the country, where anti-government protests led largely by young people have been raging, particularly in Baghdad and the South, against endemic political corruption, poor public services, sky-high levels of youth unemployment and perceived foreign meddling.
In what many see as a potential bad omen, masked gunmen of unknown affiliation jumped from vehicles in key protest sites in Baghdad on 6 December, reportedly opening indiscriminate machine-gun fire on attendees, killing at least 20. So far, nearly 450 people have allegedly been killed by government forces and unknown gunmen. Iraqi state television is said to have blamed last night’s violence on “unidentified men.”
Horrible footage coming from Baghdad #Iraq tonight. Live bullets & ammunition targeting protestors in Tahrir square. Unclear who is doing the shooting.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) 6 December 2019
Death toll 15 or 16 killed. Protests in month 3: pic.twitter.com/lTeXrkCq8n
Earlier on in the week, several people were stabbed during protests in Baghdad after men who were alleged to be supporters of an Iran-backed militia descended upon central Tahrir Square.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, resigned last week following weeks of demands by protestors that the government step aside and make way for constitutional and parliamentary reforms. Many of the protesting Iraqis, who were either not born or were very young during the reign of Saddam Hussein, argue that the political system facilitates patronage and sectarian corruption. The system, known as ‘Muhasasa,’ was largely set up by the US following the 2003 invasion and uses a quota-based system to allocate parliamentary positions to political parties based along sectarian lines.