US embassy gate broken down by Iraqi protesters.
Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militia supporters – many in uniforms – gained entry to the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after they smashed down a gate and stormed inside, the Associated Press reported.
An AP reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the embassy. The embassy was evacuated but it was not immediately clear if there were staffers holed up inside.
Hundreds of Iraqis had attempted to storm the compound earlier in the day, following the funerals for 25 fighters from an Iran-backed Shiite militia
killed in U.S. airstrikes on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militia supporters are seen at the U.S. embassy compound where a fire was set to a reception area, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Qassim Abdul-Zahra)
Reporters for the AP described a chaotic scene on the ground and reported that the crowd shouted, “Down, down USA!”
Two Iraqi foreign ministry officials told Reuters that the U.S. ambassador and staff have been evacuated. A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: "The message was delivered."
The gate that was smashed was a side entrance. Protesters had pushed about 16 feet into a corridor that leads to the main building but the protesters were still about 200 yards away from it. They raised yellow militia flags and taunted the embassy's security staff. Graffiti in red, in support of the Kataeb Hezbollah, read: "Closed in the name of the resistance."
Sen. Marco Rubio took to Twitter early Tuesday and said Iran was directly responsible for orchestrating the breach. There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon and the State Department.
Security guards were seen retreating to the inside of the embassy as the protesters hurled water bottles and smashed security cameras outside the embassies, the report said.
The U.S. military
carried out airstrikes in Iraq
on Sunday — days after a U.S. defense contractor was killed in a rocket attack.
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Military jet fighters conducted "precision defensive strikes" on five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, Jonathan Hoffman, a spokesperson for the Pentagon
told Fox News. Two defense officials added that Air Force F-15 jet fighters
carried out the strikes.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strikes send the message that the U.S. will not tolerate actions by Iran that jeopardize American lives.
Fox News' Nicole Darrah and the Associated Press contributed to this report