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Protestors Torch Swedish Embassy in Baghdad Over Second Incident of Koran Burning

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Violence broke out in and around the Swedish embassy in central Baghdad in the early hours of Thursday when a large number of demonstrators stormed the embassy.

The angry demonstrators climbed the walls of the embassy and put it on fire to show their anger on the Koran burning incident in Sweden. Fortunately, the entire embassy staff was safe, a statement released by the Swedish foreign ministry press office said. The ministry also criticized the attack and emphasized on the need for Iraqi authorities to protect diplomatic areas.

The protest on Thursday was led by supporters of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Sadr to oppose the second planned Koran burning in Sweden in weeks. A famous group on Telegram include posts on the popular cleric and his supporters and are linked with pro-Sadr media.

Sadr is one of Iraq’s most influential figures who has under him hundreds of thousands of followers. These followers of Sadr have come out on streets several times on his order. In one of the incidents last summer Sadr’s supporters surrounded Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone and unleashed deadly clashes.

According to the police permit, Swedish police approved a request for a public gathering outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on Wednesday. According to the police, there were two expected participants in the permit.

The two, who included a man who burned a Koran outside a Stockholm mosque in June, were planning to burn the Koran and the Iraqi flag during the public gathering, according to the Swedish news agency TT.

Earlier this year, the Swedish police turned down many requests for rallies that included burning the Koran, citing security issues. Since then, courts have overturned police rulings, declaring that the extensive freedom of speech provisions in the nation protect such actions.

People were seen assembling at the Swedish embassy early on Thursday morning (2200 GMT on Wednesday), singing pro-Sadr slogans, then storming the embassy compound an hour later in a series of videos provided to the Telegram group One Baghdad.

Later videos showed demonstrators standing on the roof of a building within the embassy complex as smoke rose from it.

The event was denounced by the foreign ministry of Iraq, which also said in a statement that the Iraqi government had given security forces orders to conduct a prompt investigation, find the culprits, and hold them accountable.

Security personnel had been stationed inside the embassy by Thursday’s daybreak, and smoke was rising from the structure while firefighters put out recalcitrant embers, according to witnesses.

Later, in an effort to remove the remaining dozen or so demonstrators from the area, Iraqi security personnel charged at them. Beforehand, protesters briefly threw rocks and other missiles at the numerous security personnel gathering.

After an Iraqi man burned a Koran in Stockholm late last month, Sadr called for protests against Sweden and a removal of the Swedish ambassador.

The individual was cited to authorities for incitement against an ethnic or national group after the fire. He identified himself as an Iraqi immigrant wanting to outlaw the Koran, which is considered by Muslims. In the wake of that Koran burning, there were two significant demonstrations in front of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, with demonstrators once entering the embassy’s grounds.

Several Muslim nations, including Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Morocco, have expressed their outrage at the incident, with Iraq calling for the man’s extradition so that he might stand trial there.

Despite adding that Sweden’s granting of the permit supported freedom of expression rather than endorsing the activity, the United States denounced it nonetheless.

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