Violent mobs attacked the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, scaling walls and forcing the gates of the compound. Hundreds of protesters demonstrated against American airstrikes on an Iran-backed militia group in Iraq.
The mob attempted to break into the premises adding that security personnel fired tear gas to repel the attack.
Viral videos on social media shows demonstrators smashing windows, burning items outside and throwing rocks over the walls.
The embassy, in Baghdad’s green zone, has been put under lockdown, but protesters have not been able to breach the compound, an embassy spokesperson said.
US ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller has been on vacation for more than a week, the spokesperson added.
It is not clear how many people are inside the embassy, but it is the US’ largest diplomatic mission in the world, with around 16,000 staff. The compound covers around 100 acres, around the same size as the Vatican City.
The pro-Iranian demonstrators were mostly from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a coalition of predominantly Shiite militias. Three leaders of powerful militia groups were also seen at the protest, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who heads the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah, targeted by the American strikes on Sunday.
The strikes and protests come at a time of high tensions between the US and Iran, and have stoked fears of a new proxy war in the Middle East.
The US carried out five airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on facilities controlled by Kataib Hezbollah, killing at least 25 people and wounding 51.
US officials said the strikes were carried out with F-15 Strike Eagle fighter planes and targeted weapons storage facilities and command and control locations used by Kataib Hezbollah.