Middle East/North Africa

Iranian-backed militias begin to withdraw from US Embassy in Baghdad: reports

Protesters at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are withdrawing and declaring victory after camping outside the compound all night, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The protesters, who support the Iranian-backed militia group Kataib Hezbollah, are now calling for the nation’s parliament to push for U.S. troops to leave Iraq, according to the Post.

The retreat follows a chaotic Tuesday protest where demonstrators stormed the embassy in response to U.S. airstrikes in Iraq targeting the militia group and killing 25 people over the weekend.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, the umbrella organization of several Shiite militias, ordered protesters to leave the embassy “out of respect” for the Iraqi government’s directions Tuesday, according to the newspaper.

Several hundred rejected the order initially until a Kataib Hezbollah official declared victory and told them to depart from the area.

“We will take our fight to expel U.S. troops from our land to parliament, and if we don’t succeed, we will return,” militia spokesman Mohammed Mohyee said to the crowd, according to the Post.

Some protesters still remained outside the embassy, saying they would not leave until U.S. troops leave Iraq, Reuters reported. Several of those who left established a protest camp in front of a hotel.

The U.S. has said the controversial strikes were retaliation for attacks last week that killed a U.S. contractor. The U.S. says the Kataib Hezbollah militia was behind the strike, but the militia denies it.

The protesters marched to the embassy after the funerals of those killed in the U.S. strike and chanted “Death to America” while smashing in the main door and setting a fire to the reception area.

The attack, described by The Associated Press as one of the worst on an embassy in recent history, pushed Defense Secretary Mark Esper to send 750 troops to respond “immediately” on New Year’s Eve.

U.S. forces fired tear gas on the crowds Wednesday after the group had set fire to the roof of the reception area of the embassy and attempted to enter the compound.

Tags airstrikes Baghdad embassy Iraq Mark Esper protesters

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