News ID: 263747
Published: 1143 GMT December 31, 2019

Protests rage around US Embassy in Baghdad after air raids

Protests rage around US Embassy in Baghdad after air raids

Several thousand protesters irate over US airstrikes on Iraq staged a demonstration outside of the US Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, hurling stones as security forces and embassy guards hit back with stun grenades and tear gas.

The protesters stormed and burned a security post at the entrance of the US Embassy but did not breach the main compound.

It was the first time in years that protesters have been able to reach the US Embassy, which is sheltered behind a series of checkpoints in the Iraqi capital’s high-security Green Zone.

They waved flags in support of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a network of armed groups that has been largely incorporated into the security forces.

The protesters threw stones at the gate while others chanted, “No, no, America! No, no, Trump!”

The demonstrators reached the US Embassy walls, chanting "Death to America" and burning US flags.

They held up posters calling for the embassy to be shut down and for Parliament to order US forces exit from the country.

"Parliament should expel US troops, or else we will," one poster said.

They pulled security cameras off the wall as Iraqi security forces tried to keep them back.

Iraqi special forces were deployed around the main gate to prevent them entering the embassy.

Medical sources said 12 protesters were wounded by tear gas and stun grenades fired to disperse the crowd.

On Sunday, over two dozen fighters from a Hashed faction known as Kata'ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) were killed in US airstrikes on a base in western Iraq.

The US said the strikes were in response to a 36-rocket attack last week that killed an American contractor at an Iraqi base.

The attacks have not been claimed but US security assessments have largely blamed them on Kata'ib Hezbollah.

Caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has announced three days of public mourning.

Two Iraqi Foreign Ministry officials said the US ambassador and other staff had left, but they did not say when.

The Washington Post reported that inside the embassy, US diplomats and staffers were huddled in a fortified safe room, according to two reached by a messaging app.

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he expects Iraq to "use its forces" to protect the US Embassy in Baghdad as he blamed Iran for orchestrating the protest.

In his tweet, Trump said the US had "strongly responded" to the attack that killed the US contractor, and "always will."

The Iraqi government on Monday denounced the weekend strikes and warned they could affect ties with Washington, which later that day accused Baghdad of having failed to protect US interests.

Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.



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