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Protesters set fires in front of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Photo: Khalid Mohammed/AP

Some local staff were evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, while others remained inside a safe room within the compound as thousands of protesters and militia fighters thronged the gates in fury at U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, the AP reports.

The latest: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement, "We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy."

  • "As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so," Esper added. "The U.S. continues to support the Iraqi people and a free, sovereign and prosperous Iraq."
  • A State Department spokesperson said in a statement that "U.S. personnel are secure and there has been no breach," adding that Ambassador Matthew Tueller, who had been on a scheduled vacation, is returning to the embassy.

The scene, per Reuters: "Outside the embassy, protesters threw stones at the gate while others chanted, 'No, no, America! ... No, no, Trump!'"

  • An AP reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main embassy building.
  • There was a fire at the reception area near the parking lot of the compound.
  • A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: "The message was delivered."

"Iraqi special forces were deployed around the main gate to prevent [protesters] entering the embassy," Reuters added.

  • "A few hours into the protest, tear gas was fired in an attempt to disperse the crowd."
  • Ambassador Matthew Tueller was out of the country on a previously scheduled vacation.
The U.S. embassy wall is splattered with graffiti. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images

The context: The embassy attack follows deadly airstrikes Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah, per AP.

  • The U.S. military said the airstrikes were in retaliation for last week's killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it had blamed on the militia.

Why it matters: The developments represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and also weaken Washington's hand in its maximum pressure campaign against Iran.

  • President Trump tweeted: "Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!"
  • He later tweeted: "To those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!"

Editor's note: This is a developing news story and will be updated with new details.

Go deeper: U.S. forces conduct airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria, Iraq

Go deeper

48 mins ago - Technology

New skill for Olympic athletes: cybersecurity

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

When Olympic athletes from all over the world land in Beijing for the 2022 Olympic Games, they'll be loaded up with burner phones and will likely leave their own devices behind.

Why it matters: Athletes are headed to the Beijing Olympics with mixed guidance from their home countries about whether their personal information will be safe online and their devices will be secure.

Omicron is finally burning out

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New COVID infections are declining in the U.S. — a sign that the Omicron wave has likely peaked.

Yes, but: Deaths are rising, and the U.S. still has a lot of COVID — a reminder that even this milder variant is still a very real threat to unvaccinated Americans.

Activist Republicans oppose helping Ukraine

Ground personnel unload weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, and other military hardware delivered on a National Airlines plane by U.S. military at Boryspil Airport near Kyiv on Jan. 25, 2022. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Republicans running in high-profile primary races aren't racing to defend Ukraine against a possible Russian invasion. They're settling on a different line of attack: Blame Biden, not Putin.

Why this matters: GOP operatives working in 2022 primary races tell Axios they worry they'll alienate their base if they push to commit American resources or troops to help Ukraine fight Russia.

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