Update: The Pentagon sent around 100 Marines to the US Embassy in Baghdad to increase the security in the wake of an attack on Tuesday where hundreds of pro-Iran militia members stormed the compound.
Tear gas was fired towards Iraqi demonstrators in an effort to push them back from the US embassy in Baghdad, AFP reported on Tuesday.
Twelve militiamen were wounded in Iraq due to tear gas and stun grenades fired to disperse protest outside the embassy.
Thousands of protesters and militia fighters have gathered outside the main gate of the US embassy compound in Baghdad to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq.
Iraq’s PM and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Adel Abdul-Mahdi released a statement demanding protesters leave the US embassy immediately, Iraq’s state news agency INA reported.
“The US strike on our military units on Dec. 29 was condemned at the highest levels by the government, which also took a series of measures to address the situation in a way that secures the sovereignty of Iraq and the security of its citizens,” the statement read.
Earlier reports of the Iraqi Minister of Defense Najah Al-Shammari visiting the embassy were later denied by the Ministry of Defense, both updates were reported by Al-Arabiya.
In a tweet, US President Donald Trump told the Iraqi government it had to protect the embassy and he blamed Iran for the attacks.
Al-Najba militia demanded foreign forces leave Iraq, while Al-Hashd movement remained outside the embassy despite security forces demands to leave. Reports said Al-Hashd movement allies torched a security point in the area.
Al-Arabiya reported that some of the protesters broke into an observation tower near the embassy.
The US ambassador and other staff have been evacuated, two Iraqi Foreign Ministry officials told Reuters on Tuesday.A conflicting report suggests the ambassador was on leave at the time.
The ambassador and staff left out of security concerns. One official said a few embassy protection staff remained.
The protests follow air strikes by US forces carried out on Sunday against the Kataeb Hezbollah militia in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor in a missile attack on an Iraqi military base.
The strikes risk drawing Iraq further into a proxy conflict between the US and Iran at a time when it is being rocked by mass protests against the political system.
Protesters threw stones at the complex while others chanted, “No, no, America… No, no, Trump” Iraqi special forces were deployed around the main gate to prevent them entering the embassy.
Qais Al-Khazali, leader of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia, and many other senior militia leaders were among the protesters. Kataeb Hezbollah flags were hung on the fence surrounding the building.
Iraqis are taking to the streets in their thousands almost daily to condemn, among other things, militias such as Kataeb Hezbollah and their Iranian patrons that support Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.
Abdul Mahdi condemned the strikes, which killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55.
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