BAGHDAD — Protesters angry over the burning of a copy of the Koran stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad early Thursday, storming the compound and lighting a small fire.
Videos online showed protesters at the diplomatic post waving flags and banners depicting influential Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada Sadr. It was not clear if there were any staff inside the complex at the time.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Videos showed dozens of men scaling the compound’s fence, with the sound of them trying to break down a front gate. Another showed what appeared to be a small fire igniting. Other images showed men, some shirtless in the summer heat, inside what appeared to be a room in the embassy, with an audible alarm in the background.
READ: Protester burns Quran in Stockholm mosque on Eid holiday
Others later held pre-dawn prayers outside the embassy.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attack.
“The Iraqi government has instructed the competent security authorities to carry out an urgent investigation and take the necessary security measures to discover the circumstances of the incident and identify the perpetrators of this act and hold them accountable in accordance with the law,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Iraqi police and state media did not immediately acknowledge the attack.
READ: Pope Francis condemns the burning of the Koran – United Arab Emirates Newspaper
The demonstrations began after a man planned, under police protection, to burn a copy of the Koran and the Torah, the Jewish holy book, outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday. However, the man had reportedly abandoned his plan the next day.
The right to hold public demonstrations is strong in Sweden and is protected by the constitution. The blasphemy laws were dropped in the 1970s.
For Muslims, the burning of the Koran represents a blasphemous desecration of the sacred text of their religion. Burnings of the Koran in the past have sparked protests across the Muslim world, some of which have turned violent.
READ: Man in China detained after recording himself burning Quran
An Iraqi Christian immigrant burned a Quran outside a Stockholm mosque last month during the main Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, sparking widespread condemnation in the Islamic world. A similar protest by a far-right activist was held outside the Turkish embassy earlier this year, complicating Sweden’s efforts to convince Turkey to allow it to join NATO.
In June, protesters stormed the embassy in Baghdad during the day over the burning of the Koran. Another day of protests saw thousands of demonstrators on the streets of the country. The protesters then, as well as on Thursday morning, called on Iraqi officials to expel the Swedish ambassador to Iraq.
READ: Quran burning sparks deadly riots in Afghanistan
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