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Iraqi protesters return home after storming government complex and swimming in palace pool

Armed supporters of a powerful Iraqi cleric who clashed with security forces in the capital have begun to withdraw from the streets following two days of deadly unrest.
The upheaval had sparked fears instability might spread throughout the country and even the region, before cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told his supporters to leave the government quarter where they had rallied.
Within minutes, some could be seen heeding the call, dismantling their tents and walking out of the area known as the Green Zone.

In the unrest, supporters stormed a government complex and swam in its pool.

What caused the storming of the palace?

Iraq’s government has been deadlocked since Mr al-Sadr’s party won the largest share of seats in October parliamentary elections but not enough to secure a majority government.
That led to months of political infighting between Mr al-Sadr’s Shiite followers and his Iran-backed Shi’ite rivals before it became violent on Monday.
The chaos began when Mr al-Sadr announced he would resign from politics.
Many dismissed the move as a ploy to gain greater leverage, and his supporters stormed the Green Zone, once the stronghold of the US military and now home to Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies.

They eventually breached the gates of the government palace, rushing into its lavish salons and marbled halls.

Followers of Mr al-Sadr headed to the building shortly after the Shiite cleric said he would retire from politics. Credit: picture alliance/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

On Tuesday, his followers could be seen on live television firing both machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades into the heavily-fortified Green Zone while security forces sporadically returned fire and armoured tanks lined up.

Some bystanders filmed the gunfight with their mobile phones although most hid behind walls, wincing when rounds cracked nearby.
At least 30 people were killed, officials said, before Mr al-Sadr urged those loyal to him to go home, following pleas for restraint from several Iraqi officials and the United Nations.
“This is not a revolution,” the cleric said in a televised address.
Mr Al-Sadr, who spurred his followers to storm the parliament in July with calls for revolution and reform, apologised to the Iraqi people and said he could not support the violence.
The immediate shift on the streets underscored his enduring control over his loyalists, and by extension his influence over the Iraqi political class.

In addition to the dozens killed, more than 400 were wounded, two Iraqi medical officials said on Tuesday.

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