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100 Marines, 2 Apaches being sent to secure US Embassy in Iraq from Iran-backed group

A CH-47 Chinook carries U.S. Soldiers, assigned to 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, out of Camp Taji, Iraq, Sept. 6, 2009. (Pfc. Ali Hargis/Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq)
December 31, 2019

The Pentagon has directed at least 100 Marines to reinforce the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday following violent protests that have sent U.S. diplomats into hiding.

Following a State Department request for protection at the embassy, the Marines were approved by Iraqi Security Forces and deployed via Chinook helicopters with two Apache attack helicopters providing air support, U.S. Central Command spokesman Mike Lawhorn told Military Times.

The Marines are reportedly from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, a ground force deployed to the Middle East that specializes in crisis response, U.S. officials told Military.com.

Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) spokesman Col. Myles Caggins posted a video online of AH-64 Apache helicopters dropping flares over the embassy.

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Other unconfirmed videos on social media show what appears to be Chinooks and Apaches flying over the embassy.

Another video claims to show U.S. Marines taking defensive positions on the roof of the embassy.

Video from earlier Tuesday had shown some Marines already inside the embassy standing guard while protesters yelled outside.

In a three-part tweet, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed that protection measures were underway.

“The Department of Defense is working closely with the State Department to ensure the security of our Embassy and personnel in Baghdad,” Esper said.

“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,” Esper continued.

“As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, & we call on the Gov’t of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so. The US continues to support the Iraqi people & a free, sovereign, & prosperous Iraq,” he added.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was stormed by pro-Iranian protesters early Tuesday, less than two days after the U.S. carried out airstrikes on five sites belonging to the Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah.

The protesters set fire to the embassy’s perimeter, smashed windows and doors, and marched and chanted while shouting “death to America” and “down, down America.”

Embassy employees and diplomats were forced to flee the location and are now in hiding.

The U.S. airstrikes conducted on Sunday came in response after the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia launched a 30+ rocket attack on the K1 military base near Kirkuk, Iraq, which left one U.S. defense contractor dead, and four other U.S. service members injured, according to a Pentagon statement.

The U.S. airstrikes killed 25 militia members and injured 51, and the militia vowed to strike back on the U.S. in revenge.