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Iraq's Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr quits politics, sporadic violence continues
Iraq's firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Sunday announced that he is leaving political life and closed his offices almost two months before the country's national elections, while violence across the country left at least 22 people killed and 13 wounded, police said.
"I'm announcing that I will not intervene in public political affairs, and no bloc represents us anymore," Sadr said in a statement posted on his official website.
The statement added that Sadr has closed all of his political offices except for some charities and said that "no one has the right to represent and speak on their behalf and under their title. "
According to the statement, Sadr's surprise decision came to " protect his family's name, and to end all evil acts that occurred and are likely to occur under the name of our family or under the name of our offices."
It wasn't immediately clear whether Sadr's decision was permanent, but this move has had immediate impacts on the political scene, with more than seven members of parliament in his political bloc, al-Ahrar, resigning after losing their religious legitimacy following Sadr's withdrawal.
Sadr's group currently holds 40 seats in the 325-member parliament as well as six cabinet posts in Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki's Shiite-led government.
Observers expect that more members of parliament in Sadr's bloc and allied politicians will resign, bringing the country's political process to a new deadlock.
Sadr, the son of a murdered Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, is also known for his rejection of Maliki's efforts to seek a third term in office and his withdrawal could be useful for Maliki's ambition, according to local observers.
Meanwhile, violence continued to plague the country elsewhere on Sunday, including in the volatile province of Anbar, where a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a police checkpoint near al-Warrar bridge in northern the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, leaving three policemen dead and four others wounded, a provincial police source told Xinhua.
An army force killed four suspected al-Qaida militants during a search operation at a neighborhood in Ramadi, the source added.
Anbar province has witnessed fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi in late December.
Elsewhere in the country security forces reported a number of attacks against their personnel. At dawn outside the town of Taza, some 250 km north of Baghdad, gunmen stormed a police checkpoint and shot dead five policemen before they fled the scene, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Gunmen attacked an army checkpoint near the town of al-Riyadh, some 45 km southwest of Kirkuk, leaving three soldiers killed and four wounded, the source said.
Local police said soldiers foiled a suicide car bomb attack on their military base near the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad and provincial police in the province of Salahudin reported two farmers were killed by gunmen as well as the family members of two brothers who worked with the provincial police in a separate incident.
Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.
[Source: Xinhua, Baghdad, 16Feb14]
War in Iraq
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