US embassy guards in Baghdad fire stun grenades at protesters

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Dec 31, 2019, 05.17 PM(IST)

The American Embassy Security men are seen through a glass window as protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), in Baghdad Photograph:( Reuters )

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The US ambassador to Iraq and other staff had been evacuated from the embassy earlier for their safety

Security guards at the United States embassy in Baghdad fired stun grenades at protesters today, Reuters reported.

The US ambassador to Iraq and other staff had been evacuated from the embassy earlier for their safety.

Thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside the gate denounced US airstrikes in Iraq.

On Sunday, US planes had attacked bases belonging to an Iranian-backed militia, a move that risks drawing Iraq further into a proxy conflict between Washington and Tehran at a time when mass protests are challenging Iraq's political system.

The attack on the Kataib Hezbollah militia was in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

Outside the embassy, protesters threw stones at the gate while others chanted, "No, no, America! ... No, no, Trump!" Iraqi special forces were deployed around the main gate to prevent them from entering the embassy.

Iraqis have been taking to the streets in their thousands almost daily to condemn, among other things, militias such as Kataib Hezbollah and their Iranian patrons that support Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's government.

But on Tuesday, it was these militias who were spraying "Closed in the name of the people" on the gates of the U.S. Embassy and smashing the surveillance cameras around the building with bricks and stones.

Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, and many other senior militia leaders were among the protesters.

"Americans are unwanted in Iraq. They are a source of evil and we want them to leave," Khazali told Reuters. Khazali is one of the most feared and respected Shi'ite militia leaders in Iraq, and one of Iran's most important allies.

Kataib Hezbollah is one of the smallest but most potent Iranian-backed militias. Its flags were hung on the fence surrounding the embassy.

Militia commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, also known as Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, and Badr Organisation leader Hadi al-Amiri were also at the protest.

Abdul Mahdi has condemned the airstrikes, which killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55.