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Top cleric warns of chaos amid worsening crisis in Iraq

Forty protesters were shot dead by security forces in Baghdad and the southern cities of Najaf and Nasiriya on Thursday.

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Anti-government protesters gather during clashes with security forces in Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Anti-government protesters gather during clashes with security forces in Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Anti-government protesters gather during clashes with security forces in Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

A leading cleric in Iraq has warned of civil war after a deadly day of violence in which security forces shot dead 40 people in the capital and the southern provinces.

The country’s top Shiite cleric called on politicians to “reconsider” their support for the current government.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said the parliament that voted for the government of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi is “invited to reconsider its choices in that regard”, in his weekly Friday sermon delivered in the holy city of Najaf.

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Protesters stand on a concrete wall erected by security forces to close a street, amid clashes in Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Protesters stand on a concrete wall erected by security forces to close a street, amid clashes in Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

AP/PA Images

Protesters stand on a concrete wall erected by security forces to close a street, amid clashes in Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

He also said protesters should distinguish between peaceful demonstrators and those who have malign intentions to co-opt their movement.

Forty protesters were shot dead by security forces in Baghdad and the southern cities of Najaf and Nasiriya on Thursday, one day after the burning of an Iranian consulate.

PA