• Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

Iraqi militias quit US Embassy in Baghdad after protests

  • Published at 09:36 am January 2nd, 2020
Iraq - US
Protestors set fire to an entry control point at the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, December 31, 2019. US Army/Staff Sgt. Desmond Cassell/Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs Reuters

Iraq’s military said all protesters had left by the evening

Supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups who stormed the US Embassy’s perimeter and hurled rocks in two days of protests withdrew on Wednesday after Washington dispatched extra troops and threatened reprisals against Tehran.

The demonstrators, angry at US air strikes against the Tehran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group in which at least 25 people were killed, threw stones at the building while US forces stationed on the rooftops fired tear gas to disperse them.

By mid-afternoon, most appeared to have obeyed a call to withdraw, issued by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) umbrella group of mainly Shi’ite militia, which said the demonstrators’ message had been heard.

Young men used palm tree branches to sweep the street in front of the embassy compound. Others packed up equipment and vans arrived to take people away. Some left to set up a protest camp in front of a nearby hotel.

Iraq’s military said all protesters had left by the evening.

The protests marked a new turn in the shadow war between Washington and Tehran playing out across the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump, who faces a re-election campaign in 2020, accused Iran of orchestrating the violence. He threatened on Tuesday to retaliate against Iran but said later he did not want war.

Iran, under severe economic duress from punishing US sanctions put in place by Trump, denied responsibility.

The unrest followed US air raids on Sunday against Kataib Hezbollah bases in retaliation for missile attacks that killed a US contractor in northern Iraq last week.

On Tuesday, crowds chanting “Death to America” lit fires, and smashed surveillance cameras. They breached an outer perimeter of the embassy but did not enter the main compound.

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