U.S. security forces fired tear gas to disperse Iraqi protesters on Wednesday who had gathered outside the American embassy compound in Baghdad for a second day.
Dozens of pro-Iranian protesters had camped outside the gates of the embassy overnight, after thousands stormed the compound with some making it as far as the main reception area before being repelled and failing to gain accessto the main building on Tuesday. The embassy sits on a vast 100-acre site along the Tigris river, making it the biggest U.S. embassy.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Tuesdaythat the U.S. is sending about 750 soldiers to the Middle East in the wake of the embassy’s storming. More personnel are on standby to deploy if they’re needed, he added.
On Wednesday around 250 to 300 protesters gathered outside the compound walls where Iraqi security forces had also assembled to protect the integrity of the embassy, a senior Iraqi security official told NBC News on the condition of anonymity.
Video circulated on social media that appeared to show protesters scaling a compound building and agencies published video of what appeared to be demonstrators throwing stones at embassy buildings. It was unclear if those protesting were militiamen, their supporters or both.
The protesters weredemonstrating deadly U.S. airstrikes Sunday on weapons depots in Iraq and Syria that the United States said were linked to Kataeb Hezbollah. At least 25 fighters were killed in the strikes.
The United States blames the militia for attacks on the bases of the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State in recent months.
Esper said President Donald Trump had ordered the deployment of U.S. troops on Tuesday and said it was an “appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad.”