Defense chief: US sending additional troops to embassy in Baghdad

Defense chief: US sending additional troops to embassy in Baghdad
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The U.S. military is sending additional forces to the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after demonstrators breached the gates and set fire to the property Tuesday.

“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense,” Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperSaudi military students resume US flight training: report Overnight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Bipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall MORE said in a statement Tuesday.

Multiple reports say about 100 Marines who are already in the region will be sent to the compound. Additionally, two U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters flew over the embassy in a show of force, according to reports.

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U.S. Central Command did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation on the number of troops and the Apache flights. The Pentagon declined to elaborate on Esper's statement.

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq later released a video of the Apaches dropping flares over the embassy.

Esper also called on Iraq to protect embassy personnel.

“As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in [their] country, and we call on the government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so,” he said in his statement. “The United States continues to support the Iraqi people and a free, sovereign and prosperous Iraq."

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Thousands of demonstrators and supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday in response to U.S. airstrikes on that militia over the weekend.

Demonstrators, some of whom were militia commanders or in militia uniform, chanted “Death to America” and set fire to the compound’s reception area, leading to the use of tear gas and gunfire, according to reports from the ground.

The United States on Sunday struck five Kata'ib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria, killing at least 25 militia fighters, in response to a Friday rocket attack on an Iraqi military base. The Friday attack, which the United States blamed on the militia, killed a U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. service members.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE has accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack" on the embassy, warning “they will be held fully responsible.” 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Former Laura Bush staffer decries Taliban's treatment of women amid peace deal Bipartisan Senate resolution would urge UN to renew Iran arms embargo, travel restrictions MORE spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi and President Barham Salih after the breach and told them the United States “will protect and defend its people.” They, in turn, assured him that they “would guarantee the safety and security of U.S. personnel and property,” according to a State Department statement about the call.

Updated at 2:07 p.m.