Iraq’s Sistani: ‘Undisciplined elements’ shot protestors, demands govt inquiry
Iraq’s top Shia cleric on Friday blamed the Baghdad government for the killing of scores of protesters and gave it a two-week deadline to find out which “undisciplined elements” had used snipers to shoot them, in an apparent reference to Iran-backed militias accused of a role in the crackdown.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani “demands that the government investigate to find out which elements gave orders to shoot protesters, whatever their affiliation,” a representative of the cleric said during a sermon in the holy city of Kerbala.
The death toll for the protests is now over 100. Demonstrators were shot and killed while protesting in the country's south and the capital Baghdad.
Protestors have alleged that Farsi-speaking Iranians have been reponsible for killing protestors. Iran has a large presence in Iraq, including the 7,500-strong force led by Gen. Hassan Karami.
Many of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militias are loyal to Iran, and the PMU’s deputy commander Jamal Jaafar al-Ibrahimi – known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes – is a key Iranian ally.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in his first reaction to the violence in Iraq, called the protests a “conspiracy” by the enemies and an attempt to “sow discord” between Iran and Iraq.