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Iraqi protesters withdraw from U.S. embassy after unrest

Iraqi protesters withdraw from U.S. embassy after unrest

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Iraqi protesters have retreated from outside the  U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi military said on Wednesday, according to media reports.

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This is coming a day after the protesters, angered by U.S. airstrikes on an Iran-allied militia, attacked the building.

“All protesters have withdrawn and all aspects, which accompanied these protests, have ended,” Iraq’s Joint Operations Command was quoted as saying, by the state news agency INA.

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Iraqi security forces have taken charge of the precincts of the  U.S. embassy compound, it added.

The pullout came after Hashd Shaabi, a powerful pro-state Shiite militia backed by Iran, and the Iraqi government called on the protesters gathering and camping out at the gates of the embassy to withdraw.

The U.S. embassy said on Wednesday it had suspended all public consular operations until further notice due to the breach.

“U.S. citizens are advised to not approach the embassy,” the mission said in an online statement.

It added that the U.S. consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, is open for visa and U.S. citizen services appointments.

Dozens of supporters of the Hashd Shaabi had set up tents on Tuesday night outside the embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone in a protest at U.S. strikes that killed at least 25 militiamen at the weekend.

On Wednesday, protesters set fire to the outside wall of the embassy, where heavily armed U.S. forces were seen standing on the roof of the building, witnesses said.

Some protesters suffered breathing problems after inhaling tear gas that U.S. and Iraqi forces fired to disperse them.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim called on the protesters to leave.

“The message of the protesters has arrived, and their safe withdrawal has become a necessity,” the official said on Wednesday on Twitter.

Iraqi Interior Minister Yassin al-Yasiri oversaw the protesters’ withdrawal, INA reported.

The protesters have relocated their sit-in to a bank of Baghdad’s Tigris river.

“The protesters have started setting up their tents on the bank of the Tigris … opposite the U.S. embassy,” Iraqi independent portal Alsumaria News reported, citing a security source.

Hashd Shaabi said in a statement its withdrawal call was made in response to an appeal from the Iraqi government.

On Tuesday, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi called on the protesters to leave, threatening to inflict the “toughest penalty” on those who attack foreign embassies.

The two days of protest outside the embassy were triggered by  U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday that targeted the Kataib Hezbollah militia group.

Kataib Hezbollah, a part of the Hashd Shaabi umbrella group, had been blamed for an attack last week that killed a U.S. citizen.

Chanting “Death to America,” angry protesters on Tuesday broke into the U.S. embassy compound, set fire to one of its gates and pelted the embassy building with stones.

U.S. President Donald Trump blamed the attack on Iran and said Tehran will “pay a very big price.”

Tehran has blasted Washington’s “irrational response” to the protests and denied any involvement.

Washington has announced that it will immediately deploy 750 soldiers to Iraq “as an appropriate and precautionary action.”

The US is leading an international alliance that helped Iraq defeat Islamic State and regain the country’s swathes of territory that was once under the radical group’s control.

The post Iraqi protesters withdraw from U.S. embassy after unrest appeared first on Vanguard News.

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