BAGHDAD — Thousands of supporters of an Iraqi Shiite militia broke into the U.S. embassy compound in central Baghdad on Tuesday, as President Donald Trump holds Iran “fully responsible” for the attack, two days after deadly U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
The protesters converged on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, a home to government offices and foreign embassies, to denounce the U.S. airstrikes that killed at least 25 fighters from the powerful Iran-backed militia of Hashd Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) late Sunday.
Witnesses told dpa Iraqi security forces fired tear gas to disperse the angry protesters, who shouted “No, no America” and “Death to America” and raised flags of the militia. People were also seen trying to climb the walls in an attempt to storm the building.
The Hashd Shaabi militia said in a statement that 32 people were wounded after the guards of the embassy fired tear gas and bullets at the protesters.
The U.S. military said on Sunday it had carried out “precision defensive strikes” in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, which was blamed for an attack earlier this week that killed a U.S. citizen.
The strikes targeted five sites in total — three in Iraq and two in Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The U.S. strikes came after a rocket attack on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk that resulted in the death of a civilian contractor, four injured U.S. service members and two injured members of the Iraqi Security Forces.
The Hashd Shaabi, the umbrella group of Kataib Hezbollah, said on Monday that the airstrikes left 25 militiamen dead and 50 others wounded.
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi on Tuesday called on the protesters outside the U.S. embassy to leave immediately.
“Any attack on the foreign embassies is an act that will be strictly prevented by security forces and punished by law with the toughest penalty,” he said in a statement issued by his office.
Trump said he holds Iran “fully responsible” for the attack on the U.S. embassy.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. 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,” he wrote on Twitter.
“In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
A Hashd Shaabi leader has threatened a “harsh response” against the U.S. forces in Iraq in retaliation for the airstrikes.
“The blood of martyrs and those wounded will not be in vain and our response will be harsh against the U.S. forces in Iraq,” the militia’s deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, said.
Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani has denounced the airstrikes and called for Iraq’s sovereignty to be respected.
Iraqi President Barham Salih said the attacks were a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, calling for his country not to be dragged into regional and international conflicts.
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