The American embassy in Baghdad has reportedly engaged inbound rocket attacks with its air defense system, the C-RAM which protects aerial threats against the Green Zone.
Some reports suggest the streets have finally grown calmer in the early morning hours (local time), but this is after an evening and overnight death toll of at least 15, including unconfirmed reports of police casualties. AFP citing local medical sources also says some 350 protesters were injured.
Currently the Kuwaiti embassy in Iraq is urging all of its citizens to leave the country, and its likely that more regional and gulf states will follow, especially if violence spreads to other provinces.
By all accounts the situation into the overnight hours (local time) Baghdad has continued to spiral, with one well-known regional Mideast correspondent describing a “full implosion” – despite security forces attempting to enforce a strict curfew meant to clear the streets. The Republican Palace, which is where Iraq’s gridlocked parliament meets (though which has now been suspended by acting prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi), was occupied by armed protesters earlier in the evening.
CNN reports of the latest, “At least five people have been killed and more than 40 have been injured in violent clashes that erupted in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Monday, following an announcement by powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that he was withdrawing from political life, medical sources told CNN.” Earlier, though unconfirmed reports, said at least eight had died amid clashes with police. These numbers were quickly updated and the death toll is expected to go higher into the night: At least 12 protestors killed (AFP), 2 security members killed (Arabiya). State trying to impose a curfew but situation is out of hand. Protestors aggravated by status quo, militias roaming Baghdad, Gov MIA, long night for Iraq,” Joyce Karam summarizes.
“Several witnesses told CNN the security forces pushed protesters out of Iraq’s Republican Palace by firing tear gas and live bullets. Hundreds of protesters stormed the building inside the Green Zone following al-Sadr’s announcement, Iraqi security officials told CNN on Monday.”
The White House previously denied widespread claims that an embassy “evacuation” was in progress – but at this point it seems more than likely that key personnel are being whisked to safety given the crumbling security situation in the supposedly ‘high-secure’ Green Zone.
n a twisted bit of tragic irony, all of this is of course happening the very week, almost to the day, of another anniversary and grim legacy of America’s two-decade long ‘war on terror’
Pro-Sadr protesters were earlier seen taking over the swimming pool at the iconic Republican Palace built by Saddam and kept in tact after the 2003 US invasion.