Iraqi protesters withdraw from US embassy after unrest
Baghdad (dpa) – Iraqi protesters have retreated from outside the US embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi military said on Wednesday, a day after the protesters, angered by US airstrikes on an Iran-allied militia, attacked the building.
“All protesters have withdrawn and all aspects, which accompanied these protests, have ended,” Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said, according to the state news agency INA.
Iraqi security forces have taken charge of the precincts of the US embassy compound, it added.
“The prime minister and the supreme commander of the Armed Forces ordered the embassy and its employees be protected in compliance with Iraq’s obligations,” the military said.
The pullout came after Hashed Shaabi, a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, and the Iraqi government called on the protesters gathering and camping out at the gates of the embassy to withdraw.
Earlier Wednesday, US and Iraqi forces fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Dozens of supporters of the Hashd Shaabi had set up tents Tuesday night outside the embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone in a protest against US strikes that killed at least 25 militiamen on the weekend.
On Wednesday, protesters set fire to the outside wall of the embassy, where heavily armed US forces were seen standing on the roof of the building, witnesses said.
Some protesters suffered breathing problems after inhaling tear gas that had been fired to disperse them.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim called on the protesters to leave.
“The message of the protesters has arrived, and their safe withdrawal has become a necessity,” the official said Wednesday on Twitter.
Iraqi Interior Minister Yassin al-Yasiri oversaw the protesters’ withdrawal, INA reported.
The protesters will resume their sit-in on a bank of Baghdad’s Tigris River to push for the departure of US troops from Iraq, the agency added.
Hashd Shaabi said in a statement its withdrawal call was made in response to an appeal from the Iraqi government.
On Tuesday, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi called on the protesters to leave, threatening to inflict the “toughest penalty” on those who attack foreign embassies.
The two days of protest outside the embassy were triggered by US strikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday that targeted the Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
Kataib Hezbollah, a part of the Hashd Saabi umbrella group, had been blamed for an attack last week that killed a US citizen.
Chanting “Death to America,” angry protesters on Tuesday broke into the US embassy compound, set fire to one of its gates and pelted the embassy building with stones.
US President Donald Trump blamed the attack on Iran and said Tehran will “pay a very big price.”
Tehran has blasted Washington’s “irrational response” to the protests and denied any involvement.
Washington has announced that it will immediately deploy 750 soldiers to Iraq “as an appropriate and precautionary action.”
The US is leading an international alliance that helped Iraq defeat Islamic State and regain the country’s swathes of territory that was once under the radical group’s control.
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