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US calls on citizens not to travel to Iraq

January 3, 2020 at 4:37 am

Outraged Iraqi protesters storm the US Embassy in Baghdad, protesting Washington’s attacks on armed battalions belong to Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi forces on 31 December, 2019 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

The United States (US) State Department yesterday issued a statement, calling on its citizens to avoid travelling to Iraq.

“All Americans in Iraq are at high risk of violence and kidnapping,” the foreign office said.

On Wednesday, the US embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad said it had suspended all public consular operations “until further notice,” a day after Iraqi protestors stormed its outer perimeter, setting fires, throwing rocks and smashing surveillance cameras.

Read: US’ Pompeo thanks Israel’s Netanyahu for support over Iraq strike

The unrest outside the embassy’s compound came after the US air raids on Sunday against bases of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group. Washington said the airstrikes, which killed 25 people and injured 51 others, were in retaliation for missile attacks that killed a US contractor in northern Iraq last week.

The protests marked a new turn in the shadow war between Washington and Tehran playing out across the Middle East.

On Tuesday, the US President Donald Trump, who faces a re-election campaign in 2020, accused Iran of orchestrating the violence, threatening to retaliate against Iran but said later he did not want war.