Heavyweight Champion Joshua Hits Out At ‘Virus’ Of Racism

 

World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua told a Black Lives Matter march on Saturday that protesters were the “vaccine” to the “virus” of racism.

“The virus I am referring to is called racism,” he said, comparing its effects to the damage done by COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the British boxer asked: “How long are we going to allow racism to spread through our communities?”

Worldwide protests under the banner of Black Lives Matter took place Saturday in response to the death of George Floyd, a black American man who died in Minneapolis last month while being arrested by police officers.

“You are the vaccine, I am the vaccine,” the 30-year-old Joshua told a rally in his home town of Watford.

“Killing a person outright is unforgivable, but stripping them of their human rights, oppressing them, mocking them, insulting them, placing glass ceilings above them… is just a slower way of killing them and taking the life out of their soul.”

Joshua was on crutches at times on Saturday and was also seen wearing a knee brace, but a spokesperson insisted that was just a “precautionary measure”.

Joshua, the reigning WBA, IBF and WBO title-holder, felt a “slight twinge” in his left knee in a training session earlier this week.

But his camp insisted there was no cause for alarm.

“Anthony felt a slight twinge in his knee whilst training,” the spokesperson said.

“The brace is a precautionary measure on the advice of physios. It will be further checked by his doctors but there is no immediate concern.”

Joshua was due to defend his belts against Kubrat Pulev at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20 only for the bout to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

George Floyd: Ujah Proud Of Players Staging Anti-Racism Protests

These images taken on May 25, 2020, from a video courtesy of Darnella Frazier via Facebook, shows Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during the arrest of George Floyd. Darnella Frazier / Facebook/Darnella Frazier / AFP
These images taken on May 25, 2020, from a video courtesy of Darnella Frazier via Facebook, shows Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during the arrest of George Floyd. Darnella Frazier / Facebook/Darnella Frazier / AFP

 

Union Berlin’s Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah said he is “proud” of Jadon Sancho and other Bundesliga players who staged on-pitch protests following the death of black American George Floyd and pledged to do the same if he scores against Schalke this Sunday. 

“I am proud of the players who are taking a stand. I am proud of Jadon Sancho. I am proud of Weston McKennie. I am proud of Marcus Thuram. I am proud of Achraf Hakimi. The whole world saw their message,” wrote Ujah in an article for German daily FAZ.

After scoring in Dortmund’s win at Paderborn on Sunday, England winger Sancho lifted his shirt to reveal the message “Justice for George Floyd”. He was booked, but for lifting his shirt over his head rather than for the message.

His Dortmund team-mate Hakimi unveiled a similar t-shirt, while Schalke’s McKennie wrote the same message on his captain’s armband during a defeat to Werder Bremen. Gladbach striker Thuram, meanwhile, dropped to one knee after scoring against Union.

The German Football Association (DFB) later decided not to sanction the four players for what they said were “symbols of solidarity”.

“This line will also be taken should further players make demonstrations on racism and the death of Floyd over the course of upcoming matchdays,” the DFB added.

Ujah, who staged a similar protest while playing for Cologne six years ago following the death of another black American man Eric Garner, said he would not hesitate to do so again.

“Six years later, we are again talking about exactly the same thing. A black person is no longer able to breathe and loses his life under police violence. That is a disgrace. Every year we hope that it will improve, but exactly the same things happen again,” said the Nigerian.

AFP

Senegal Arrests 70 Over Violent Protests Against COVID-19 Curfew

File photo of residents in Dakar on May 23, 2020. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

Senegalese police arrested more than 70 people on Wednesday after protests tinged by violence broke out in several cities across the West African country demanding a nighttime coronavirus curfew be lifted.

The protests over the 9:00 pm and 5:00am curfew started on Tuesday and continued into the night, their severity prompting an appeal for calm by a major Muslim leader.

In Touba, a religious hub 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of the capital Dakar, three police vehicles and an ambulance were set ablaze, a senior official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A coronavirus treatment centre there was attacked and the windows of the offices of electricity provider Senelec were smashed, the source said.

Witnesses added that post office buildings in Touba — the seat of the politically powerful Sufi Muslim order called the Mouride Brotherhood — were attacked.

In the neighbouring town of Mbacke, protesters damaged the local headquarters of radio station RFM, which is owned by singer and former minister Youssou N’Dour, according to the local journalists’ association 3CM.

The group said in a statement that it “firmly condemns these acts of vandalism” and “calls on the authorities to ensure the safety of the media during this period of riots”.

In a separate statement, the Council of Broadcasters and Press Publishers of Senegal (CDEPS) said “those responsible for this rampage must be tracked down and brought to justice”.

Protestors also erected barricades and burned tyres in Mbacke, other witnesses said.

The Senegalese media added demonstrations also occurred in Tambacounda, in the east of the country, and Diourbel, in the west.

There were 74 arrests — 29 in Touba, 38 in Mbacke, five in Tambacounda and two in Diourbel — a source close to the case said on Wednesday.

– ‘Go home’ –

The caliph, or leader, of the Mouride Brotherhood, Serigne Mountakha Mbacke, made a rare late-night TV appearance to call for an end to the protests in Touba, Senegal’s second-largest city with a population of around a million people.

“Go home. Tomorrow we will look at the source of the problems and how to address them. I don’t think we have ever seen this in Touba,” he said.

The curfew, imposed by President Macky Sall on March 23, bans movement between 9pm and 5am.

It is being implemented in tandem with a ban on travel between Senegal’s regions.

The measures have been extended until the end of June, although Sall eased other restrictions on May 11, allowing places of worship and markets to reopen.

High schools in the West African state had been due to reopen on Tuesday, but this step was delayed at the last minute after 10 teachers in the southern region of Casamance tested positive for COVID-19.

The country has recorded nearly 4,000 cases of coronavirus, 45 of them fatalities.

The figures are low compared to countries in Europe and the United States, although experts caution that, as elsewhere in Africa, Senegal is vulnerable to the pandemic because of its weak health system.

Demands for an easing of restrictions have mounted in the face of the plight of many Senegalese who depend on menial day-by-day jobs.

Around 40 percent of the population live below the threshold of poverty, according to a World Bank benchmark.

The government is expected to announce in the coming days whether it will ease some of the emergency curbs.

Pope Reacts To Killing Of Floyd, Says Racism Is Intolerable

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis said on Wednesday “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism”, in reaction to the killing of a black man by US police that has sparked nationwide protests.

But the pontiff also condemned the violence that followed George Floyd’s death in the city of Minneapolis last week as “self-destructive and self-defeating”.

“Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” Francis said.

Floyd, 46, an unarmed African-American man, suffocated as a white police officer kneeled on his neck, sparking once-in-a-generation demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality.

The pope said he was praying for Floyd and “all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism”.

READ ALSO: UK PM Johnson Condemns George Floyd killing, Calls For ‘Lawful’ Protests

Protests have been held in cities across the country, mostly peaceful but many descending into mayhem.

Both activists and officials have blamed rabble-rousers for the trouble and thousands of people have been arrested.

AFP

Trump Threatens To Mobilise Military To Stop Violent U.S. Protests

A military police Humvee blocks the street in downtown as demonstrators protest during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Washington D.C. on June 1, 2020. Jose Luis Magana / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump vowed to order a military crackdown on once-in-a-generation violent protests gripping the United States, saying he was sending thousands of troops onto the streets of the capital and threatening to deploy soldiers to states unable to regain control.

The dramatic escalation came a week after the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed when a white police officer knelt on his neck, leading to the worst civil unrest in decades in New York, Los Angeles and dozens of other American cities.

After being criticized for his silence on the worsening crisis, Trump struck a martial tone in a nationwide address Monday from the White House garden, as police fired tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the fence.

“I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property,” Trump said.

He slammed the previous night’s unrest in Washington as a “total disgrace” and called on governors to “dominate the streets.”

“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” he said, denouncing “acts of domestic terror.”

Despite the president’s rhetoric, Monday’s protests appeared largely peaceful in major cities, though some looting was reported in New York and Los Angeles.

During his address, however, law enforcement including military police used tear gas to clear protesters outside the White House so the president could walk across the street to the two-centuries-old St John’s church, hit with graffiti and partially damaged by fire during unrest on Sunday.

“We have a great country,” Trump declared as he stood before the church’s boarded-up windows, held up a Bible, and posed for photographs.

The backlash was swift.

“He’s using the American military against the American people,” tweeted Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

“He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets. For a photo. For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him,” he said.

Washington’s Episcopalian bishop, Mariann Budde, said she was “outraged” at the church visit, which she said Trump did not have permission for.

Thousands of people have participated in the nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racism since Floyd’s killing.

It was the most widespread unrest in the United States since 1968 when cities went up in flames over the slaying of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Many of the demonstrations have been peaceful and marked by moments of catharsis such as officers hugging tearful protesters and marching or kneeling alongside them.

– ‘Homicide’ –

Others have seen rage-filled clashes between protesters and police, and widespread property damage. One person was shot dead in Louisville, Kentucky.

Floyd’s agonizing death was caught on bystander cell phone video that shows policeman Derek Chauvin pinning him down with his knee for nearly nine minutes, as the 46-year-old pleaded for his life with the haunting words: “I can’t breathe!”

“The evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause of death, and homicide as the manner of death,” Allecia Wilson, a University of Michigan expert who examined his body at the family’s request, said.

Hennepin County’s medical examiner released its official autopsy calling the death a homicide caused by “neck compression,” although it had also said he was intoxicated and pointed to heart disease.

A memorial for Floyd will take place on Thursday in Minneapolis before his funeral in Houston, where he grew up, on June 9.

But hundreds paid tribute in Minneapolis on Monday at the exact time he died one week prior, forming a large circle at the site of the killing where they chanted, knelt, and prayed.

Floyd, 46, had been accused of trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit bill.

The autopsy revived demands for the arrest of three other police officers who stood guard for Chauvin as Floyd lay dying.

Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and is due to appear in court on June 8.

– ‘We’ve had enough’ –

More than 40 cities have imposed curfews after consecutive nights of tension.

More looting was taking place in New York on Monday night, an AFP reporter saw, with stores including Best Buy and Nike damaged. Police said they had arrested “hundreds” across the city.

After widespread looting in Manhattan, New York mayor Bill de Blasio said a curfew would be imposed from 8:00 pm Tuesday, three hours earlier than Monday’s.

“We support peaceful protest in this city. But right now it’s time to go home,” de Blasio tweeted.

In Los Angeles, where the National Guard were deployed at Hollywood landmarks such as the Dolby Theatre, some looting was also reported, though protests were largely peaceful.

“Deep down inside us, we’ve had enough,” said 30-year-old Jessica Hubbert, a protester.

Trump spent most of the weekend inside the White House tweeting attacks on political rivals and the media.

In a leaked conference call Monday, he told state governors they were “going to look like a bunch of jerks” if they were too soft.

The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, is heard saying he was “extraordinarily concerned” by the president’s “inflammatory” rhetoric.

Biden, for his part, met Monday with black leaders at a church in his home of Wilmington, Delaware, and promised to form a police oversight commission in his first 100 days as president.

Indian Students Protest After Being Stripped For Menstruation Checks

 

Scores of women students staged a protest outside an Indian college saying they were forced to strip to check if they were menstruating.

The students were told to undress after a used sanitary napkin was found in a garden outside Sahjanand Girls Institute, where they are banned from the hostel when they are having their periods.

“There are no words to describe the humiliation that we faced,” said one of the students protesting outside the college in Bhuj, in the western state of Gujarat.

Deep-rooted social taboos remain in India around menstruating women. In some rural areas, women are made to sleep separately during periods. They are banned from entering some temples.

College authorities lined up 68 students in the washroom and ordered them to undress one by one, the students told reporters.

The college is run by the conservative Hindu sect Swaminarayan. The sect runs lavish temples around the world, including in London.

Its rules bar students from staying in the hostel during their periods.

Menstruating women students must stay in an isolated basement area and keep away from the kitchen and the place of worship.

They also have to sit at the back of the classroom during lectures.

The college said it had set up an inquiry and indicated action could be taken against the staff behind the checks.

College trustee Pravin Pindoria said: “The girls were informed about the hostel rules before they took admission.

“I have called a meeting of the administrative committee which will take action against the responsible persons.”

AFP

At Least 14 Dead In DR Congo Road Crash

 

A man died after falling into a river on Sunday as Storm Dennis swept across Britain with the army drafted in to help deal with heavy flooding and high winds.

The man fell into the River Tawe, in south Wales, police said.

The storm also battered much of France, with some 60,000 people suffering power cuts in the northwest of the country.

Britain’s government weather agency issued a rare red warning for south Wales, saying there was a risk of “significant impacts from flooding” that included a “danger to life from fast flowing water, extensive flooding to property and road closures”.

Police said in a tweet the man who fell into the river was later found dead “further along the river in the Tebanos area”.

A record 594 flood warnings and alerts were in place on Sunday, extending from Scotland’s River Tweed to Cornwall in southwest England.

Winds of over 90 miles per hour (150 kilometres per hour) were recorded in Aberdaron, south Wales.

Pictures circulated on social media showed the nearby River Taff bursting its banks, while rescue workers rushed to get people trapped in their homes in Powys to safety.

“The forecast is for very significant levels of rain, especially in the eastern valleys of South Wales,” said Jeremy Parr, from government body Natural Resources Wales.

“Impacts could be severe overnight, and everyone should take the warnings extremely seriously,” he added.

Police declared major incidents in parts of Wales and England, with landslides also reported.

“Some communities have been cut-off…, but emergency service workers are working tirelessly to put measures in place to ensure the safety of residents,” South Wales Police said in a statement.

Roads and railways were badly affected by the downpours and winds, having barely recovered from a similar storm last week.

The Ministry of Defence deployed troops in West Yorkshire, northern England, which suffered badly from flooding caused by last weekend’s Storm Ciara.

“Our armed forces are always ready to support local authorities and communities whenever they need it,” said defence minister Ben Wallace.

British Airways and easyJet confirmed they had grounded flights, with footage posted online showing a massive Airbus A380 jet being blown about as it attempted to land.

Earlier, two bodies were pulled from rough seas off the south England coast on Saturday as the storm barrelled in.

One of the men is assumed to have been the subject of a search triggered when an LPG tanker reported that one of its crew was unaccounted for.

He had last been seen several hours earlier.

Northwestern France was also affected by the storm, especially Brittany where the Finistere and Morbihan regions were temporarily placed on orange alert for rain and flooding, according to the national weather service, Meteo-France.

Electricity provider Enedis said it had deployed 450 staff in an attempt to bring power back to homes affected.

A regional spokesman told AFP normal service would not likely resume before Monday.

By Sunday evening, Meteo-France said the worst seemed to have passed as winds dropped to below 100 kph (62 mph).

Several neighbouring countries were also affected.

“Winds will be increasing throughout the day on Sunday across Germany, Denmark and southern Sweden,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Maura Kelly said earlier Sunday.

AFP

Three Dead As Gambians Protest Against President Barrow

Protesters hold banners bearing the faces of victims of the regime of Yahya Jammeh, the former President of the Gambia, during a demonstration asking for Yahya Jammeh to be brought to justice in Banjul on January 25, 2020. ROMAIN CHANSON / AFP

 

Three people died on Sunday in the Gambian capital Banjul during a demonstration calling for President Adama Barrow who wants to extend his term to step down, a hospital director said.

Police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who responded by throwing stones, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

“I can confirm that there have been three dead,” said Kebba Manneh, director of the Serrekunda hospital where victims were taken.

He told reporters that people brought to the hospital had been treated for gas inhalation, and said some were still under observation.

Tension has been building in The Gambia over Barrow’s decision to stay in office for five years — reversing an initial pledge to step down after three.

Red Cross sources said 28 people had been taken to Serrekunda hospital on Sunday.

Opposition activists added that police had arrested scores of people, including Abdu Njie, leader of the Three Year Jotna (is up) Movement.

AFP

Indian Police Battle Anti-Modi Protesters Over Disputed Law

Protesters hold placards and shout slogans against India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they participate in a protest against India’s new citizenship law, in Kolkata on January 11, 2020.
Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP

 

Indian police baton-charged protesters Sunday to stop them reaching Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s car as nationwide protests against a bitterly disputed citizenship law entered a second month.

Tens of thousands staged protests through the night in the eastern city of Kolkata to denounce Modi’s weekend visit to the capital of West Bengal state, whose local rulers have strongly opposed the legislation.

Police said they were forced to act after protesters tried to storm past barricades to stop Modi’s vehicle outside a stadium, where the leader again defended the law and insisted the demonstrators were “misguided”.

Nearly 2,000 protesters gathered outside chanting “Fascist Modi, Go Back” before the showdown between demonstrators and police. More than 100 protesters were detained, a police official said.

Protesters have burned effigies of the prime minister during his visit and brandished black flags — considered an insulting gesture in Indian society.

“The government can’t suppress our voice. We are not afraid. We are determined to fight for our rights,” Samit Nandi, one of the protesters, told AFP. “We will continue our protests until Modi leaves our city.”

West Bengal has become a political battlefield between Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and regional powerhouse Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress party leads the state.

Banerjee is among state leaders nationwide who have said they will not implement the Citizenship Amendment Act, which excludes Muslims from a list of ethnic minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who are allowed to seek Indian nationality.

Opponents say the government has created a religious test for citizenship in the secular country.

Many among India’s 200 million Muslims fear the law is a precursor to a national register of citizens that could leave them stateless in the country of 1.3 billion. Many poor Indians do not have documents to prove their nationality.

“CAA is not about taking away citizenship, it is about giving citizenship,” Modi told supporters.

He has accused political opponents of “misleading” and “inciting” people against his government.

Widespread demonstrations have rocked the Hindu-majority nation since the law was approved by parliament last month.

At least 27 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed with police accused of using disproportionate force in several states.

Home Minister Amit Shah, the government number two, also held a rally in Jabalpur on Sunday to build support for the law and several hundred supporters of the measure marched in New Delhi.

But in a new sign of international unease over the law, a third Bangladesh minister cancelled a visit to Delhi in apparent protest. Deputy foreign minister Shahriar Alam was to have attended a diplomatic syposium in the Indian capital this week.

Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan called off separate visits in December. The government has denied any link to the new law, however.

The United Nations and a US government religious freedom commission have also expressed concern.

AFP

Iraqi Protesters Denounce Twin ‘Occupiers’ US And Iran

 

 

Iraqi protesters flooded the streets on Sunday to denounce both Iran and the US as “occupiers”, angry that fears of war between the rivals were derailing their anti-government movement.

For three months, youth-dominated rallies in the capital and Shiite-majority south have condemned Iraq’s ruling class as corrupt, inept and beholden to Iran.

Following a US strike on Baghdad Friday that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders, Iraqi lawmakers urged the government Sunday to oust thousands of US troops deployed across the country.

For protesters who were hitting the streets, Iran was also a target for blame.

“No to Iran, no to America!” chanted hundreds of young Iraqis as they marched through the southern protest hotspot of Diwaniyah.

Young children present carried posters in the shape of Iraq and waved their country’s tri-colour.

“We’re taking a stance against the two occupiers: Iran and the US,” one demonstrator told AFP.

Nearby, a teenage girl held a handwritten signing reading: “Peace be on the land created to live in peace, but which has yet to see a single peaceful day.”

Iraqi helicopters circled above, surveying the scene.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have been deteriorating since the US abandoned a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and reimposed crippling economic sanctions.

But tensions boiled over during the last week, culminating in a US drone strike outside Baghdad Airport that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and several Iraqi paramilitary leaders.

‘Don’t ignore our demands’

Some protesters initially rejoiced, having blamed Soleimani for propping up the government they have been trying to bring down since early October.

But joy swifty turned to worry, as protesters realised pounding war drums would drown out their calls for peaceful reform of Iraq’s government.

In a bold move, young protesters in the southern city of Nasiriyah blocked a mourning procession for Soleimani and top Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis from reaching their protest camp.

Outraged pro-Iran mourners fired on the protesters, wounding three, medical sources told AFP.

“We refuse a proxy war on Iraqi territory and the creation of crisis after crisis,” said student Raad Ismail.

“We’re warning them: don’t ignore our demands, whatever the excuse,” he said.

The demonstrators are calling for early parliamentary voting based on a new electoral law. They hope this would bring transparent and independent lawmakers to parliament.

They have also demanded Iran — their large eastern neighbour which holds sway among Iraqi politicians and military figures — reduce its interventions in Iraq.

Tehran has especially strong ties to the Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network of mostly-Shiite factions which has been incorporated into the state.

The US has accused one vehemently anti-American Hashed faction, Kataeb Hezbollah, of attacking US diplomats and troops in Iraq.

No sovereignty, no state?

On Saturday, Kataeb Hezbollah told Iraqi security forces to “get away” from US troops, sparking fears they would fire rockets at bases shared by soldiers from both countries.

Just moments before, explosions rocked the enclave in the Iraqi capital where the US embassy is located and an airbase north of the capital housing American troops.

In the shrine city of Karbala, student Ahmad Jawad denounced Soleimani’s killing and the ensuing violence.

“We refuse that Iraq becomes a battlefield for the US and Iran, because the victims of this conflict will be Iraqis,” he told AFP.

Another student, Ali Hussein, was worried about the precarious situation.

Iraq’s premier Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned last month over the protests but political factions have not agreed on a replacement, and are now focused on the aftermath of the US strike.

“The Americans violated Iraq’s sovereignty by hitting the Hashed bases and carrying out another strike by the Baghdad airport,” said Hussein.

For demonstrators whose main rallying cry had been “We want a country,” Hussein said the foreign military operations were jarring.

“It’s proof that there’s no state in Iraq,” he said.

Trump Threatens Iran After Baghdad Embassy Attack

 

US President Donald Trump warned Tehran it would “pay a very big price” after a mob of pro-Iranian demonstrators stormed the American embassy compound in Iraq, as his government said it is sending hundreds more troops to the Middle East.

Angered by US airstrikes that killed two dozen paramilitary fighters on Sunday, hundreds of protesters spilled through checkpoints in the high-security Green Zone Tuesday, demanding the removal of American troops from Iraq and voicing loyalty to a powerful Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the attack was “orchestrated by terrorists,” one of whom he named as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Muhandis has been identified as second-in-command of the Tehran-backed Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group which includes Kataeb Hezbollah, the group that was targeted in the US airstrikes.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said around 750 troops from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division are prepared to deploy over the next several days to the region.

“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” he said.

Prior to the announcement, a US official told AFP that “up to 4,000 (troops) may ultimately be deployed”.

The US had already flown a rapid response team of Marines into Baghdad to reinforce its embassy after the attack Tuesday, which left smoke and flames rising from the embassy entrance and further heightened tension between Tehran and Washington.

Esper’s announcement is the latest move by Washington to step up its defences in the region since US President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled out of a multinational nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed crippling economic sanctions.

Trump blamed Tehran for the embassy attack and warned that it would face punishment if Americans are killed.

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” Trump said on Twitter.

“They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” wrote Trump, adding “Happy New Year!”

However, Trump later told reporters that he did not foresee war with Tehran.

Surprise, fury

Trump’s message came at the end of a day in which Washington officials appeared surprised and furious over the ease at which the protestors entered the Green Zone, reaching the US embassy compound for the first time in years.

Live broadcasts showed the protesters battering down the high-security doors of the embassy reception building, smashing windows, burning a sentry box and chanting “Death to America!”

The State Department and Pentagon demanded Iraq’s leaders provide security to the compound — which was already heavily fortified.

By the time a contingent of US Marine reinforcements flew in, some of the demonstrators had pulled back and others settled in for a sustained protest, preparing food for the evening.

Tehran said the United States is itself to blame for airstrikes that killed about two dozen Kataeb Hezbollah fighters on Sunday.

“The surprising audacity of American officials is so much that after killing at least 25… and violating the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, that now… they attribute the Iraqi people’s protest against their cruel acts to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

‘Strategic patience’

The mob attack put a focus on the strains in the US-Iraqi relationship. Allies of Iran, which enjoys significant support in parts of the Iraqi government, increasingly challenge Washington’s influence in the country.

US jet fighters on Sunday struck five Kateab Hezbollah outposts in Iraq and Syria after a series of rocket attacks on US-occupied facilities in Iraq over the past two months that are blamed on the group and its alleged Iranian sponsors.

One of those attacks, in Kirkuk on Friday, left an American civilian contractor dead and exhausted what US officials called Trump’s “strategic patience” with Tehran.

‘First lesson’ to US

It also added to the growing calls by some political factions in Iraq to push US troops out of the country nearly 17 years after they entered and overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The protesters who besieged the US embassy on Tuesday carried posters reading: “Parliament should oust US troops, or else we will!”

Late Tuesday Kataeb Hezbollah hailed the attack as a “first lesson” to Washington, “so that Trump knows he did something extremely stupid”.

US officials said there were no plans to evacuate the mission, and no US personnel were reported injured. Ambassador Matthew Tueller, who had been on holiday, was on his way back to the embassy.

Pentagon Says Sending 750 Troops To Mideast After Embassy Attack In Iraq

 

The United States is sending around 750 more troops to the Middle East immediately, following an attack by pro-Iranian demonstrators on the US embassy in Baghdad, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

More troops from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division are prepared to deploy over the next several days, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement.

READ ALSO: 10 Killed As Riot Rocks Jail In Venezuela

“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” he said.

“The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world.”