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Sadr supporters involved in violent unrest in Najaf and other areas of the Southern Region

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On the night of 15 May, dozens of Muqtada al-Sadr supporters conducted a demonstration outside Bashir Mall, located near Sadrain Square in Najaf City. Protestors called for the closure of the mall in response to Sadr’s dismissal of alleged corrupt associates. This included Bashir Mall owner Jawad al-Kar’awi “Abu Aktham.” The situation escalated, with physical altercations occurring between demonstrators, mall employees, and security personnel. A large fire broke out at the mall. In response, security guards discharged small arms fire into the air to disperse the demonstrators. Most sources suggested as many as four individuals were killed and 17 others were wounded. Higher counts including five killed were also reported. At least two of the injured were reportedly mall employees. Sadr swiftly retracted his statement and urged his followers not to engage in violent behavior.

However, associated assemblies continued in Najaf after this statement. Additional sympathetic demonstrations involving Sadr supporters were reported in Kut, Hillah, Nasiriyah, Karbala and Basra cities. Preceding these events, Sadr formed a committee to investigate projects run by his party members and warned it was no longer possible to “tarnish the reputation of his father, the Marja.” Anecdotal reports suggested that Sadr fabricated accusations of corruption in an effort to reassert his political control, while also serving to promote his image of a combatant against corruption. The accused individuals reportedly responded and accused Sadr of corruption, which sparked a series of demonstrations as protesters expressed their solidarity with Sadr.

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