Members of the Saraya al-Salam, an armed brigade of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, have deployed in droves to several districts of the Iraqi capital after receiving information about “threats” to holy sites.
Iraqi official security and intelligence forces did not comment or release information about the existence of such threats that could spark a deadly civil war in the country.
Saraya al-Salam claimed that the threats were directed at both Sunni and Shiite holy sites.
Sadrist militants were deployed in the streets of Baghdad, as well as the provinces of Karbala and Najaf, according to footage shared on social media.
Iraqis in areas where Saraya al-Salam deployed their gunmen voiced their fears and concerns about the threats bringing back violence that threatens the country’s civil peace.
Despite Saraya al-Salam ordering the withdrawal of forces from the streets of Baghdad, the deployment evoked memories of the 2006 al-Askari mosque bombing which was staged by al-Qaeda.
That bombing triggered a civil war that lasted for nearly three years and during which people were being killed over their sectarian affiliations.
Faced with sharp criticism for what many are labeling as an attempt to undermine state security apparatuses, Saraya al-Salam defended its deployment, saying it was in coordination with local authorities.
There was no official clarification on whether government forces had coordinated with the brigade.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said on Monday night his government would not “tolerate any transgressors”.
“We will not give up on state-building and its prestige … building is not done by encroaching on religious and national symbols, striking institutions and blocking roads, but with state support,” he said on Twitter.