UPDATED WITH MORE INFO
By Haydar Karaalp
BAGHDAD (AA) – Outraged Iraqi protesters on Tuesday stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, protesting Washington's attacks on armed battalions belong to Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi forces.
At least 25 people were killed in weekend U.S. airstrikes on positions of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia group, in Iraq and Syria.
Hundreds of Iraqi protesters gathered early Tuesday near the embassy to show their anger at the U.S. attacks.
According to an Anadolu Agency correspondent at the scene, some Iraqi protesters set fire to the walls surrounding the embassy compound.
Iraqi security riot police, in turn, fired tear gas canisters to disperse crowds of protesters in front of the embassy, according to eyewitnesses.
Witnesses told Anadolu Agency that the police and army reached the vicinity of the embassy in the diplomatic Green Zone and began firing tear gas to disperse the crowds and keep them away from the embassy compound.
They added that the protesters threw stones and empty water bottles at the embassy.
An Iraqi security source, for his part, said most of the embassy staffers had been evacuated, fearing that it would be stormed by protesters gathering in front of the gate.
The source, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told Anadolu Agency: "The embassy evacuated its main employees to an unknown location as tension mounted in front of the embassy."
He added, "there is a fear that the fighters in the crowd and those loyal to them may storm the embassy building," stressing that the embassy headquarters is now all but vacant.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that prominent leaders of the Hashd al-Shabi factions were leading the protests, while protesters began erecting sit-in tents in front of the embassy compound.
Three eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that the leaders Hadi al-Amiri and Qais al-Khazali were leading the protests.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry also condemned the weekend attacks, calling them “a clear violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”
"Iraq is an independent country,” said a ministry statement, adding that it will not allow Iraq to be turned into “a battlefield or a crossing point for an attack, or its territories to be used to target neighboring countries."
The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad will be summoned to deliver the statement to his superiors, said the statement.