BAGHDAD (Reuters) – More than 200 demonstrators broke into the courtyard of Bahrain’s Embassy in Baghdad and took down the kingdom’s flag on Thursday night to protest a U.S.-led meeting in Bahrain on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Police used live rounds to disperse the crowd, police sources told Reuters, with no injuries reported.
“We used our vehicle loudspeakers to encourage protesters to leave the compound,” a police officer stationed near the embassy said. “After they refused, police had to fire into the air.”
One protester, who identified himself as a member of the Islamic Resistance Groups, a term usually used by Iranian-backed Shiite militias, said they wanted to send a strong statement.
“We took down the Bahraini flag to send a clear message to all those who participated in the Bahrain conference, that we strongly reject normalising relations with the Zionist occupiers and will never abandon our support of Palestinians,” said the protester, who identified himself as Abu Murtadha al-Moussawi. “We are ready to fight for this.”
Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Iraq for consultations on Thursday after the protests.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain condemns the attack on the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Republic of Iraq by the demonstrators (which) led to sabotage in the embassy building,” a statement on the ministry’s website said.
The kingdom also summoned the charge d’affaires of the Embassy of Iraq in Manama on Friday to protest the “sabotage” of the embassy’s building in Baghdad, a second statement from the Bahraini foreign ministry said.
“The foreign ministry welcomes the two statements from the Iraqi government… and insists on the importance of holding the perpetrators accountable,” the statement added.
Iraq condemned the protesters, and expressed “its deep regret” over the security breach at the embassy.
“The government of Iraq affirms its absolute rejection of any acts which threaten diplomatic missions, their safety and the security of their personnel,” said in a statement.
The two-day conference in Manama was aimed at rallying support for a $50 billion investment plan in the Palestinian Territories as the first part of a broader White House political plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The plan has met broad disdain from Palestinians and others in the Arab world although regional U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia discreetly support it. Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments attended the meeting.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Additional reporting by Raya Jalabi in Baghdad and Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Leslie Adler, Grant McCool and Toby Chopra)