At least four people were killed and 17 more injured during a violent protest that took place in the Iraqi city of Najaf, health sources affirmed on Wednesday.
The protest began after influential Iraqi cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition was the winner of last year’s parliamentary elections, called on his supporters to surround “corrupt” business centers and “disrupt their affairs” for three days.
After the sit-in turned to violence, with fires and gunshots erupting near Bashir Mall, Sadr quickly walked back his statement and urged his followers not to engage in violent behavior.
It is the latest move by Sadr in his campaign to root out and defeat corrupt members in his Sadrist movement.
According to Hakim Emergency Hospital statement, four people died and 17 more injured in the protests near Bashir Mall.
Iraqi security, late on Wednesday, also announced they had arrested five people, all of whom were mall security guards, for opening fire on people.
Sadr has recently claimed that some of his coalition members had been using his name in business deals for their own personal gains over the past few years.
The mall, which was besieged for hours and then torched by protestors, belongs to a man who was once part of the Sadrist movement, demonstrators told Kurdistan 24.
The owner of the busy commercial center is Jawad al-Karawi, according to locals.
Karawi, also known as Abu Aktham, was the deputy head of Najaf International Airport and a former member of Najaf Provincial Council.
In a videotape, Karawi appealed to Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to intervene in the situation.
A few days ago, 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.”
There were also reports of casualties as Sadr supporters tried to storm the home of Deputy Governor of Wasit Province, Adil al-Zarkani, who was dismissed from the Sadrist movement on corruption charges.
Successive Iraqi federal governments have not been able to put an end to corruption as the government of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi struggles to end the waste of public money and faces strong resistance.
Corruption and mismanagement within Iraq’s government institutions remain a challenge and obstacle for civilians hoping for stability in the country.
Iraq has one of the world’s largest oil reserves and is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
The embattled Middle Eastern nation, however, continues to rank high on Transparency International’s list for corruption, fraud, and mismanagement of state institutions, some of the most significant challenges facing the country since the fall of the former regime in 2003.
According to the organization’s 2018 Corruption Index, Iraq ranks 168th, the 12th most corrupt country out of a total of 180.