According to local media sources, at least 12 Iraqi militiamen were wounded after security forces deployed tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a violent demonstration outside the US Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, December 31. Hundreds had gathered outside the compound to oppose recent US airstrikes on Kataib Hezbollah militia targets in Al Qa'im that killed 25. Protesters reportedly stormed the compound and set fire to a security post. Iraqi officials said the ambassador and other staff had been evacuated. Iraqi special forces were deployed around the main gate to safeguard the embassy, and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper later stated that additional troops were being dispatched to the compound to protect personnel. Protesters have reportedly retreated from the embassy compound but have launched a sit-in nearby.
A heightened security presence and transportation disruptions are likely to continue over the coming several hours.
The US military carried out airstrikes on multiple locations in Iraq linked with the Kataib Hezbollah militia group on Sunday, December 29, killing 25 people. The operation came two days after a US civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on the K1 Iraqi military base near Kirkuk. US officials have blamed the Iran-backed militia group for the incident. Two Kataib Hezbollah locations in Syria were reportedly targeted in the operation as well.
Individuals in Baghdad are advised to avoid the area, monitor the situation, avoid all protests due to the risk of violence, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.