Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the government palace in protest on Monday, as the religious leader said he is resigning from politics.
The religious leader’s political party won more seats in parliament than any other in October’s elections, but not enough to have a majority. This resulted in a deadlock, as al-Sadr has refused to work with Iranian rivals.
This is not the first time al-Sadr has said he was leaving politics, leaving some skeptical of his announcement. He has made similar declarations in the past when political developments were not going in his favor.
Footage from local television posted on Twitter showed protesters chanting inside the Republican Palace. The breach comes after Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed the Iraqi parliament building in July. They had been staging a sit-in outside that building ever since.
Demonstrators pulled down cement barriers and flooded through the palace gets, making their way into the building’s various halls and salons. Images from the scene also showed protesters swimming in the palace pool.
Asharq News tweeted that the Iraqi Council of Ministers said they were suspending sessions of the government after protesters stormed their headquarters as well.
Accounts have also reported that there was shooting near the home of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Command announced “a complete curfew in the capital, Baghdad, including vehicles and citizens,” in a statement reported by the Iraqi News Agency. That report said the curfew was to begin at 3:30 p.m. local time, although Al Jazeera reported that it would start at 7 p.m.
Al-Sadr announced his retirement on social media, ordering party offices to be closed. The move followed the retirement of Shiite leader Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri, who shares supporters with al-Sadr. Al-Haeri had urged followers to support Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Al-Sadr said al-Haeri’s decision “was not out of his own volition.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.