People gather at the site of an explosion in Baghdad’s Sadr City district.
Baghdad: Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr called on his followers on Thursday to remain calm after an explosion killed 18 people in his main stronghold in Baghdad just hours after parliament called for a recount of votes in an election his bloc won.
Al Sadr, a nationalist who tapped growing resentment with Iran, scored a surprise victory in the May 12 vote by promising to fight corruption and improve services.
He said in a statement that a committee would be formed to investigate the blast, with findings presented to him within three days.
He called for “patience and self-control”, the statement from his office said.
At least 18 people were killed and over 90 wounded in Al Sadr City, a blast that the interior ministry said was the result of the detonation of an ammunitions cache.
Security forces have opened their own investigation.
“Losers in the recent elections shouldn’t hijack or manipulate the parliament. Otherwise, it is a conflict of interests,” he said.
Al Sadr has always been seen as a wildcard in Iraq’s turbulent politics, which is often driven by sectarian interests.
His Mehdi Army militia staged two violent uprisings against United States occupation forces after the invasion and Iraqi and US officials described him at the time as the biggest security threat in Iraq.
The defeat of Islamic State in December had raised hopes that the country could ease sectarian and political tensions and find a formula for stability, which has remained illusive since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussain.
But tensions over the election raised the prospect of more turmoil in Iraq, which has close ties with the United States and Iran, who both compete for power in Iraq, a major oil producer.