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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 EsperOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Trump's Navy secretary spent over M on travel during pandemic: report Court declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision 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 TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE has accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack" on the embassy, warning “they will be held fully responsible.” 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans US Olympic Committee urges Congress not to boycott Games in China Pompeo on CIA recruitment: We can't risk national security to appease 'liberal, woke agenda' 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.