Friday, June 21, 2024

Protesters storm Swedish embassy in Iraq over Quran burning

Demonstrators angered by the recent burning of a copy of the holy Quran in Sweden, stormed the Swedish embassy in central Baghdad, scaling the walls of the compound and setting it on fire.

All embassy staff were safe, the Swedish foreign ministry press office said in a statement on Thursday morning, condemning the attack and highlighting the need for Iraqi authorities to protect diplomatic missions.

Online videos showed demonstrators at the embassy early on Thursday morning waving flags and signs showing the influential Iraqi Shia religious and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Iraq’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the attack on the embassy.

“The Iraqi government has instructed the competent security authorities to conduct an urgent investigation and take the necessary security measures in order to uncover the circumstances of the incident and identify the perpetrators of this act and hold them accountable according to the law,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Swedish foreign ministry announced staff at the embassy were “in safety” after the embassy was stormed and set alight, and that Iraqi authorities had a responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and staff.

A source told Reuters earlier that no embassy staff had been harmed and declined to elaborate further.

By dawn on Thursday, security forces had deployed inside the embassy and smoke rose from the building as fire-fighters extinguished stubborn embers, according to witnesses.

Most protesters had withdrawn, with a few dozen milling around outside the embassy.

Thursday’s demonstration was called by supporters of Sadr to protest the second planned burning of a Quran in Sweden, according to posts in a popular Telegram group linked to the influential leader and other pro-Sadr media.

Swedish news agency TT reported on Wednesday that Swedish police had granted an application for a public meeting outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on Thursday.

The application said the applicant was seeking to burn a copy of the Quran and the Iraqi flag, TT reported.

Swedish media reported that Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee in Sweden, had organised the planned burning on Thursday.

Salwan also burned pages of a copy of the Quran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque on June 28 during Eid al-Adha, a holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world.

That earlier incident also prompted supporters of Moqtada to storm Sweden’s embassy in Baghdad the following day.

The governments of several Muslim countries, including Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco issued protests about the incident, with Iraq seeking the man’s extradition to face trial in the country.

Swedish police had granted Momika a permit in line with the country’s free speech protections, but authorities later said they had opened an investigation over “agitation against an ethnic group”, noting that Momika had burned pages from the Islamic holy book very close to the mosque.

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