Mourners are shown on October 4 preparing to bury a protester killed during anti-government unrest in the Iraqi city of Najaf. (Haidar Hamdani/AFP via Getty Images)

Sistani Demands that Baghdad Look into Protester Deaths

Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has demanded that the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi investigate the deaths of dozens of protesters killed by sniper fire during recent rioting over the cost of living. During his Friday sermon on October 11, he called on authorities to “discover which elements gave orders to shoot protesters, whatever their affiliation,” questioning whether they might have been “undisciplined elements” rather than official security forces. Observers say that by “undisciplined elements,” Sistani was probably referring to Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran, which many Iraqis complain have been riding roughshod over much of the country, imposing their will on rank and file citizens. According to analysts, the militias are just one way Tehran has been imposing its influence on its western neighbor, which is also predominantly Shi’ite but still recovering from the long reign of Saddam Hussein and, more recently, the terror of Islamic State.

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