Clashes in Iraq’s Najaf kill seven after al-Sadr’s followers storm protest camp

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At least seven people were killed and 53 others injured in clashes in Iraq’s southern city of Najaf on Wednesday after supporters of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed an anti-government protest camp, medical and security sources said.

All the dead suffered bullet wounds to the head or chest, the medics said.

On Tuesday, anti-government demonstrators faced off against followers of al-Sadr in protest squares across Iraq, a day after one demonstrator was killed in a clash between the two sides.

Al-Sadr, an enigmatic militiaman-turned-politician, backed the anti-government rallies when they erupted in October but has split with other demonstrators over the nomination of Mohammad Allawi as prime minister.

The cleric endorsed Allawi while other protesters rejected him, saying he was too close to the ruling elite they had been demonstrating against for four months.

Allawi took to Twitter to comment on the bloodshed, saying: “The painful events taking place now push me to ask my brothers in the current government to fullfil their tasks by protecting the protesters.”

He has until March 2 to form his own cabinet, which will be subject to a vote of confidence by parliament.

On Wednesday, Allawi has met with dozens of representatives of the protest movement rocking the capital and Shiite-majority south since October.

The protesters have been demanding an overhaul of the ruling elite and have rejected Allawi as a product of the political class they have been protesting against for months.

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