BAGHDAD,— Supporters of Iraqi Shiite militias have stormed and fire to a security post at the entrance to the U.S.
embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday.
Thousands of people have gathered in front of the U.S.
embassy to condemn Sunday’s U.S.
air strikes on bases belonging to an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq and Syria.
ambassador to Iraq and other staff were evacuated from their embassy in Baghdad for their safety on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said.
On Sunday, U.S.
planes had attacked bases belonging to an Iranian-backed militia, a move that risks drawing Iraq further into a proxy conflict between Washington and Tehran at a time when mass protests are challenging Iraq’s political system.
The attack on the Kataib Hezbollah militia was in response to the killing of a U.S.
civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.
Outside the embassy, protesters threw stones at the gate while others chanted, “No, no, America! … No, no, Trump!” Iraqi special forces were deployed around the main gate to prevent them entering the embassy.
U.S.-trained and -equipped Iraqi Counter Terrorism forces were later dispatched to reinforce these units.
A few hours into the protest, tear gas was fired in an attempt to disperse the crowd and some of the militias encouraged protesters through loudspeakers to leave.
“We have delivered our message, please leave the area to avoid bloodshed,” said one announcement.
Iraqi security forces fire teargas to disperse protesters outside U.S.
Iraqi security forces fired teargas on Tuesday outside the U.S.
embassy to disperse protesters who had gathered to condemn American air strikes in Iraq.
Only a small amount of tear gas was used and militia forces, using loud speakers, urged the crowd to disperse, a Reuters witness said.
The guards had earlier retreated inside because of safety concerns as protesters smashed security cameras outside.
A correspondent from Jordan-based Al-Hadath reported more than 20,000 people had gathered outside the compound.
Iraq’s outgoing prime minister warns against aggression toward foreign embassies
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi warned on Tuesday against any aggression towards foreign embassies and representations in Baghdad, asking protesters outside the U.S.
embassy to leave.
Mahdi, who is caretaker prime minister after resigning last month under pressure from street protests, said in a statement that any aggression against foreign embassies would be stopped by security forces and punished harshly in law.
president Donald Trump, Washington, October 7, 2019.
Trump says Iran “orchestrating” attack on U.S.
embassy in Iraq
President Donald Trump said early on Tuesday that Iran was “orchestrating” an attack on the U.S.
embassy in Iraq and will be held responsible for it.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many.
We strongly responded, and always will.
Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S.
Embassy in Iraq.
They will be held fully responsible.
In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified”, he said in a tweet.
‘Closed in the name of the people’
Iraqis have been taking to the streets in their thousands almost daily to condemn, among other things, militias such as Kataib Hezbollah and their Iranian patrons that support Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.
But on Tuesday, it was these militias who were spraying “Closed in the name of the people” on the gates of the U.S.
Embassy and smashing the surveillance cameras around the building with bricks and stones.
Some set up tents in preparation for a sit-in.
Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that Iran was responsible for the disorder.
Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, and many other senior militia leaders were among the protesters.
“Americans are unwanted in Iraq.
They are a source of evil and we want them to leave,” Khazali told Reuters.
Khazali is one of the most feared and respected Shi’ite militia leaders in Iraq, and one of Iran’s most important allies.
Kataib Hezbollah is one of the smallest but most potent of the Iranian-backed militias.
Its flags were hung on the fence surrounding the embassy.
Shiite militia commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, also known as Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, and Badr Organisation leader Hadi al-Amiri were also at the protest.
Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes on Monday warned of a strong response against U.S.
forces in Iraq following air strikes in Iraq and Syria.
Abdul Mahdi has condemned the air strikes, which killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55.
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