Conflict

Iraqi pro-Iran militia supporters attack US embassy in Baghdad

Iraq

Dozens of protesters stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday following US strikes that targeted a pro-Iranian militia group in the country. The US say the strike was a response to a prior attack by the militia that took place on Friday.

Supporters of Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah attacked the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday after deadly airstrikes that killed 25 of the Iran-backed Shiite militia’s fighters in Iraq.

The Pentagon said on Monday that it struck five Kataib Hezbollah locations in response to a rocket attack on a military base in Kirkuk that killed an American civilian contractor and wounded four soldiers.

Mourners held funerals for those killed in the strikes in a Baghdad district, after which they marched to the US embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Local media reported that Kataib Hezbollah supporters burnt the US flag and tried to break into the embassy.

Protesters waved Popular Mobilisation Forces flags and chanted “death to America,” footage showed.

The PMF is an umbrella group of paramilitary entities that was formally integrated into Iraq’s armed forces during the fight against ISIS. Most of the militia in the group are backed by Iran.

Qais Khazali, head of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl Al Haq militia, and Hadi Al Amiri, Badr militia leader, were among the protesters. The two are seen as Tehran’s right-hand men in Iraq.

The embassy attack came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held calls with leaders in the Middle East on Monday to discuss the American air strikes.

Mr Pompeo spoke with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US State Department said.

The Saudi Press Agency said Prince Mohammed and Mr Pompeo “discussed a number of regional and international developments, as well as efforts to enhance security and stability in the region”.

The United States struck five targets in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataib Hezbollah on Sunday.

At least 55 fighters were wounded in the strikes.

Riyadh on Tuesday condemned the attacks launched last week by Iran-backed militias against American forces in Iraq, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Pompeo said in a call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the strikes “were aimed at deterring Iran”, the State Department said.

Outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said the air strikes could plunge the countryfurther into the heart of a proxy conflict between the United States and Iran.

“The prime minister described the American attack on the Iraqi armed forces as an unacceptable vicious assault that will have dangerous consequences,” his office said.

Baghdad said it would summon the US ambassador while Washington responded by accusing Iraqi authorities of having failed to “protect” US interests.

Also on Monday, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, a senior commander in the PMF and founder of Kataib Hezbollah, vowed that they would retaliate.

“We will hold America accountable and will not stay silent on what has happened. The administration in Washington cannot possibly think that they control Iraq,” he said.

On Monday about 400 people in Basra protested against the air strikes in a show of support forthe militias. Counter-protests were held applauding the US action.

Mr Pompeo said Washington may take “additional actions” in the region.

Image: Reuters

Article: The National