Baghdad: Early on Thursday morning, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the Swedish embassy in the heart of Baghdad, climbed its walls, and set it ablaze in retaliation for the Qur'an burning that had taken place in Sweden.
The Swedish foreign ministry press office issued a statement condemning the attack and emphasizing the need for Iraqi authorities to safeguard diplomatic missions. The statement also stated that all embassy staff members in Baghdad were safe.
According to posts in a well-liked Telegram group linked to the influential cleric and other pro-Sadr media, the protest on Thursday was organized by followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr to protest the second Qur'an burning that has been scheduled in Sweden in recent weeks.
One of the most influential individuals in Iraq, Sadr commands hundreds of thousands of supporters, many of whom he has summoned to the streets at various times, most recently last summer when they occupied Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone and engaged in deadly clashes.
Swedish news outlet TT reported on Wednesday that Swedish police had approved a request for a public gathering to take place Thursday outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm.
According to the application, the applicant wants to burn the Iraqi flag and the Qur'an, TT reported.
In a series of videos uploaded to the Telegram group One Baghdad, it was seen that protesters gathered outside the embassy on Thursday at 1 a.m. (2200 GMT on Wednesday), chanted pro-Sadr slogans, and then stormed the building an hour later.
The videos showed numerous men scaling the complex's fence while there was audio of them trying to break down a front door. Another image appeared to depict the beginning of a small fire. Other video showed men inside what appeared to be a room at the embassy, some of them shirtless in the summer heat, with an alarm audible in the distance.
Later, others offered dawn prayers in front of the embassy.
The attack was denounced in a statement by the foreign ministry of Iraq.
In order to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident, identify the perpetrators of this act, and hold them accountable in accordance with the law, the Iraqi government has directed the relevant security authorities to immediately launch an investigation and implement the necessary security measures, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The attack was not immediately acknowledged by the Iraqi police or state media.
In a separate statement, the Swedish Foreign Ministry in Stockholm said, "We condemn all attacks on diplomats and personnel from international organizations."
The protests started after a man planned to set fire to a copy of the Torah and the Qur'an outside of the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm while being protected by the police. The man reportedly abandoned his plan, though, due to the intense backlash.
In Sweden, the constitution strongly supports and protects the right to hold public demonstrations. In the 1970s, blasphemy laws were abolished.
Muslims view the Qur'an's burning as a blasphemous desecration of their faith's sacred literature. Previous Qur'an burnings have sparked unrest throughout the Muslim world, some of which have turned violent. Due to the recent Qur'an burning, the Taliban in Afghanistan have halted all of the activities of Swedish organizations there.
During the significant Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha last month, a Christian immigrant from Iraq burned a copy of the Qur'an in front of a mosque in Stockholm, drawing widespread condemnation from the Islamic community. Earlier this year, a similar demonstration organized by a far-right activist disrupted Sweden's efforts to persuade Turkiye to accept NATO membership.
In protest of that Qur'an burning, demonstrators broke into the Baghdad embassy in the middle of the day in June. Thousands of protesters filled the country's streets on a second day of demonstrations. At the time and early on Thursday, protesters demanded that the ambassador of Sweden to Iraq be expelled.
After an Iraqi man burned a copy of the Qur'an outside a mosque in Stockholm late last month, Sadr called for demonstrations against Sweden and the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador.
In the wake of that Qur'an burning, there were two significant demonstrations in front of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, during which protesters breached the embassy's property once but did not enter the embassy itself.
Several Muslim nations' governments, including those of Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Morocco, have protested the incident.
Although it added that granting the permit supported freedom of expression rather than endorsing the action, the United States condemned it nonetheless.