File image: Iraqi security forces guard the graffiti-covered entrance to the Swedish embassy in Baghdad after protesters reportedly breached the building briefly over the burning of the Quran by an Iraqi living in Sweden, on June 29, 2023 Image Credit: AFP

BAGHDAD/STOCKHOLM: Hundreds of protesters stormed the Swedish embassy in central Baghdad in the early hours of Thursday morning, scaling its walls and setting it on fire in protest against the expected burning of a Quran in Sweden.

The Swedish foreign ministry said staff at its embassy in Iraqi capital Baghdad "are in safety". The Swedish foreign ministry's press office also told Reuters that Iraqi authorities have the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and staff.

Read more

Iraq's foreign ministry condemned the incident and said in a statement the Iraqi government had instructed security forces to carry out a swift investigation, identify perpetrators and hold them to account.

Thursday's demonstration was called by supporters of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr to protest the second planned Quran burning in Sweden in weeks, according to posts in a popular Telegram group linked the influential cleric and other pro-Sadr media.

Second permit

Swedish news agency TT reported on Wednesday that Swedish police granted an application for a public meeting outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on Thursday.

The application says the applicant seeks to burn the Quran and the Iraqi flag, TT reported.

Two people were set to participate in the demonstration, according to TT, adding one of the people was the same person who set a Quran on fire outside a Stockholm mosque in June.

Fire at embassy

A series of videos posted to the Telegram group, One Baghdad, showed people gathering around the embassy around 1 am on Thursday (2200 GMT on Wednesday) chanting pro-Sadr slogans and storming the embassy complex around an hour later.

Videos later showed smoke rising from a building in the embassy complex. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos.

It was not immediately clear if anyone was inside the embassy at the time of the storming.

In June, an Iraqi citizen living in Sweden, Salwan Momika, 37, stomped on the Islamic holy book and set several pages alight in front of the capital’s largest mosque.

Swedish police had granted him a permit in line with free-speech protections, but authorities later also said they had opened an investigation over “agitation”.

The Quran burning sparked anger across and beyond the Middle East at a time Muslims were observing Eid Al Adha and the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia was drawing to a close.

Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Middle Eastern nations had condemned the burning of the Quran, warning such acts “inflame” the feelings of Muslims around the world