- U.S. ambassador to Iraq and other staff were evacuated from their embassy in Baghdad
- Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters have broken into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad
Baghdad: The U.S. ambassador to Iraq and other staff were evacuated from their embassy in Baghdad for their safety on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said, as thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside the gate denounced U.S. air strikes in Iraq.
Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area.
US forces are said to have fired tear gas to disperse the crowd that breached the outer wall of the compound, which is in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
One of the guard towers was also apparently set alight.
Trump blames Iran
President Donald Trump is blaming Iran for a breach of the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and is calling on Iraq to protect the embassy.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that "Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many.''
Trump says, "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!
On Sunday, U.S. planes had attacked bases belonging to Iranian-backed militia, Kataeb Hezbollah, calling it retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it blamed on the group.
The two Iraqi foreign ministry officials did not say when the U.S. ambassador or other staff had left but added that a few embassy protection staff remained.
Angry supporters of Iraqi Shiite militia smashed security cameras on the walls around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, hurled stones and set up protest tents there on fire.
Shouting “Down, Down USA!” the crowd tried to push inside the embassy grounds.
They raised militia flags and taunted the embassy’s security staff who remained behind the glass windows in the gates’ reception area.
They sprayed graffiti on the wall and windows in red in support of the Kataeb Hezbollah militia: “Closed in the name of the resistance.”
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main building inside embassy. It was not clear what caused the fire at the reception area near the parking lot of the compound.
A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: "The message was delivered.''
The U.S. attack _ the largest targeting an Iraqi state-sanctioned militia in recent years _ and the calls for retaliation, represent a new escalation in the proxy war between the U.S. and Iran playing out in the Middle East.
Tuesday’s attempted embassy storming took place after mourners and supporters held funerals for the militia fighters killed in a Baghdad neighborhood, after which they marched on to the heavily fortified Green Zone and kept walking till they reached the sprawling U.S. Embassy there.
'Down down, USA'
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday’s strikes send the message that the U.S. will not tolerate actions by Iran that jeopardize American lives.
The Iranian-backed Iraqi militia had vowed Monday to retaliate for the U.S. military strikes. The attack and vows for revenge raised concerns of new attacks that could threaten American interests in the region.
The U.S. attack also outraged both the militias and the Iraqi government, which said it will reconsider its relationship with the U.S.-led coalition _ the first time it has said it will do so since an agreement was struck to keep some U.S. troops in the country. It called the attack a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.
In a partly televised meeting Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told Cabinet members that he had tried to stop the U.S. operation “but there was insistence” from American officials.
The U.S. military said “precision defensive strikes” were conducted against five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq and Syria. The group, which is a separate force from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, operates under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Many of them are supported by Iran.