Footage has emerged showing US military aircraft dropping off as many as 100 marines to the American Embassy compound in Baghdad amid angry protests outside the diplomatic mission against the recent bloody air raids that targeted the positions of Iraq’s popular forces.
The video released by the US Department of Defense on Wednesday showed the troops deplaning onto the diplomatic premises from Marine Corps’ Ospreys. The contingents belong to the US Central Command’s Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces Crisis Response, and had been taken on board from neighboring Kuwait.
US Army Apache helicopters were, meanwhile, seen releasing flares overhead.
The reinforcements are part of 750 additional forces, who were assigned for swift deployment to the Middle East after thousands of angry protesters forced their way into the Iraqi capital’s heavy-fortified Green Zone, where the US Embassy is located, on Tuesday.
Chanting “Death to America” and burning US flags, the demonstrators strongly condemned a set of US airstrikes against Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) counter-terrorism forces in the western Iraqi Anbar Province, which killed over 30 of them and injured over 50 others.
The protesters held up signs calling for the US diplomatic mission to be shut down and for the parliament to order US forces out of Iraq.
Reuters cited two Iraqi Foreign Ministry sources as saying that the US ambassador and other staff were evacuated amid the protests.
Also on Tuesday, three US defense officials told Fox News that -- in the wake of the mass protests -- the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division’s alert brigade of roughly 4,000 paratroopers, known as the Deployment Ready Brigade (DRB), was issued orders to prepare for possible deployment in the days ahead in Kuwait.
Iraq already housed around 5,000 American forces before the new deployment.
The US invaded the Arab country in 2003 under the pretext of “war on terror,” causing it to plunge into a cycle of violence, which continues to this day.
In 2014, Iraq was attacked by the Takfiri terror group Daesh, which had risen amid the chaos. The US and scores of its allies launched fresh operations against the country soon afterwards under the pretext of dislodging the group.
The US military’s killing of PMU fighters, who have played a significant role in battling the Takfiris, has now rekindled anti-American sentiment in the country as well as far-and-wide criticism from across the Iraqi political spectrum.
No let-up in protests
Another footage, which was released later on Wednesday, showed protesters standing their ground in front of the embassy, pelting it with rocks and waving the flags of Kata’ib Hezbollah, a PMU subdivision, which was targeted in the US attacks.
“So many of us were killed. This is not the first one that the US has hit us with. We were bombed before twice and thrice,” said one protester, apparently referring to previous US strikes targeting the forces. “We will never move from here…until they leave,” he added.
“We are here holding a sit-in for the souls of our martyrs and until the departure of the American occupiers,” another said.