Iraqi protesters angered by burning of copies of the Quran in Sweden stormed the Swedish embassy in central Baghdad, scaling the walls of the compound and setting it on fire.
All embassy staff were safe, the Swedish foreign ministry press office said in a statement, condemning the attack and highlighting the need for Iraqi authorities to protect diplomatic missions.
Iraq’s foreign ministry also strongly condemned the attack.
“The Iraqi government has instructed the competent security authorities to conduct an urgent investigation and take the necessary security measures in order to uncover the circumstances of the incident and identify the perpetrators of this act and hold them accountable according to the law,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
However, a statement later on Thursday from the government said that it would sever diplomatic ties with Sweden if a second Quran burning takes place in the country.
“The Iraqi government has informed the Swedish government through diplomatic channels that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Quran on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations,” the statement from the prime minister’s office said.
By dawn on Thursday, security forces had deployed inside the embassy and smoke rose from the building as fire-fighters extinguished stubborn embers, according to witnesses.
Most protesters had withdrawn, with a few dozen milling around outside the embassy.
Protesters have vowed to continue protesting “if any more burnings of the Quran happen”, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed added. The demonstrators are prepared to “take matters in their own hands” if the “Iraqi government does not dismiss the Swedish diplomatic mission immediately”, he said.
Thursday’s demonstration was called by supporters of Sadr to protest the second planned burning of a Quran in front of the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on Thursday.
“We are mobilised today to denounce the burning of the Quran, which is all about love and faith,” protester Hassan Ahmed told the French news agency AFP at the embassy.
“We demand that the Swedish government and the Iraqi government stop this type of initiative,” he said.
Swedish media reported that Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee in Sweden, had recently organised the planned burning on Thursday.
Salwan also burned pages of a copy of the Quran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque on June 28 during Eid al-Adha, a holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world.
That earlier incident also prompted supporters of influential Iraqi Shia religious and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr to storm Sweden’s embassy in Baghdad the following day.
The governments of several Muslim countries, including Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco issued protests about the incident, with Iraq seeking the man’s extradition to face trial in the country.
Swedish police had granted Momika a permit in line with the country’s free speech protections, but authorities later said they had opened an investigation over “agitation against an ethnic group”, noting that Momika had burned pages from the Islamic holy book very close to the mosque.- Al Jazeera