Four dead as Iraqi security forces break-up protest camps

Four dead as Iraqi security forces break-up protest camps

Five rockets landed in Baghdad's "green zone" earlier in the day, where the US Embassy and various Iraqi government buildings are located, Iraqi sources said.

The attack marked a unsafe escalation in the spree of rocket attacks in recent months that have targeted the embassy or Iraqi military bases where American troops are deployed.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

The Sunday attack was the first time a direct hit on the U.S. embassy was reported.

US President Donald Trump has refused to discuss the withdrawal with Iraq's acting prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and instead threatened to seize about $35 billion of Iraqi oil revenues held in a bank account in NY. Kata'ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group in Iraq that was responsible for the death of an American contractor in late December as well as other attacks on Americans, was also labeled as a terrorist organization at the time.

Tensions have been high in the Middle East after the United States carried out an airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in early January.

It did not mention the U.S. embassy.

Vehemently anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr organised a mass rally in Baghdad on Friday, where thousands of his supporters called for American troops to leave.

Sadr wrote on Twitter on Friday that he "would try not to interfere in the issue [of the protesters], either negatively or positively, so that they can guide the fate of Iraq".

Presence of Sadr's followers had shielded the protesters from security forces and unknown groups looking to harm and suppress them, according to activists.

In Baghdad, security forces stormed bridges, streets near Tahrir Square and a highway interchange taken over by protesters, firing live bullets and tear gas and setting fire to tents where protesters have been living and where medics have treated the wounded.

More than 600 people have been killed in anti-government demonstrations that started in October, according to the IHCHR and Amnesty International.

Mr al-Sadr withdrew his support after most anti-government protesters reportedly did not turn up to an anti-US rally he and his supporters organised, prompting scores of his supporters to pack down their protest camps in Baghdad and in other cities.

It comes as thousands of students flooded Iraqi streets Sunday to keep up their anti-government movement despite a crackdown.

Protesters feared security forces would enter Tahrir Square.

Roads and bridges leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq's government and home to several foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, were blocked off by concrete barriers.

Sadr had supported the demands of protesters for the removal of corrupt politicians and provision of services and jobs soon after the demonstrations began in October but stopped short of calling all his followers to join in.

More than 470 people have died, a vast majority of them demonstrators, since the rallies erupted.

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