Iraq's Sadr calls for nationwide disarmament campaign
Iraqi cleric-turned-politician Muqtada al-Sadr on Friday called for a nationwide disarmament initiative, days after an ammunitions cache exploded in Baghdad killing 18 people.
The explosion happened during the detonation of an ammunitions cache in Sadr City on Wednesday, hours after parliament ordered a recount of votes for the May election.
"Everyone must obey the orders and not stand in the way of this initiative. Everyone should hand over their weapons without any discussion because the blood of Iraqis is more valuable to us than anything else," Sadr told his supporters in a statement.
Sadr, whose political bloc won Iraq's parliamentary election in May, declared Baghdad's Sadr City district would be a weapons-free area later this month.
The disarmament campaign must target all groups, he added, and not just groups linked to Sadr.
"The Sadrist bloc must not be targeted using this initiative or else there will be negative consequences," Sadr said.
"It must also be enacted upon official security forces that use weapons without permission or mercy; these forces are still young and need rehabilitation," he said, referring to the mostly Iran-backed Shia militias collectively known as Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose bloc came in third, said storing ammunition in a residential area was a crime and ordered the Interior Ministry to investigate the incident and take legal action against those who had done so.
Some of Sadr's political opponents had suggested the ammunitions cache belonged to his Saraya al-Salam militia.
The Interior Ministry released a statement on Friday thanking Sadr for his announcement.
Confusion has gripped Iraq since the vote won by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's electoral alliance with communists, even with negotiations to form a new government underway.
Since last month's victory of anti-establishment electoral lists, long-time political figures pushed out by Iraqi voters hoping for change have been calling for a recount.