Defense chief: US sending additional troops to embassy in Baghdad

Defense chief: US sending additional troops to embassy in Baghdad
© Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

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 EsperPentagon orders active-duty police units on ready to deploy to Minneapolis: AP Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries No time to be selling arms to the Philippines 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 TrumpFauci says his meetings with Trump have 'dramatically decreased' McEnany criticizes DC mayor for not imposing earlier curfew amid protests Stopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest 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 PompeoHouse, Senate panels to question ousted State Dept. inspector general on Wednesday: report National security adviser says foreign powers trying to exploit US race relations Britain and Europe need to step up their support for Hong Kong 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.