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Embassy Attack and Diplomatic Fallout: The Aftermath of Controversial Koran Burning in Stockholm

On Thursday July 20, demonstrators launched an attack on the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, and Iraq announced the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador from the country.

The protest was triggered by the Swedish government’s allowance of two individuals to burn the Koran outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on the same day. According to the Swedish news agency TT, one of the two men involved was identified as Salwan Momika. Momika is an Iraqi Christian immigrant who had previously burned a Koran outside a mosque in Stockholm during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha last month.

During the incident, the two men kicked and partially destroyed the Koran, but left without burning it. Additionally, Momika was reported to have stepped on and kicked an Iraqi flag and pictures of Sadr and of Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Prior to this planned protest, hundreds of protestors stormed and set fire to the Swedish embassy in Baghdad. Videos showed individuals climbing over the fence and breaking down embassy doors.  Authorities and firefighters arrived at the scene to control the situation and extinguish the fire.

The Finnish embassy in Baghdad is located next to the Swedish embassy, enclosed within protective blast walls. Matti Lassila, Finland's ambassador to Iraq, informed the Finnish public broadcaster YLE that the personnel from both the Finnish and Swedish embassies were safely and preemptively evacuated on Wednesday.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström confirmed that the embassy staff was safe and strongly denounced Iraqi authorities, as “Attacks on embassies and diplomats constitute a serious violation of the Vienna Convention. Iraqi authorities have the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and diplomatic staff.” The minister also stated that the incident was “Completely unacceptable and the government strongly condemns these attacks.” He further declared that “The government is in contact with high-level Iraqi representatives to express our dismay."

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani strongly condemned the attack on the embassy, labelling it as a breach of security and pledging to protect diplomatic missions. Al-Sudani also declared that the Iraqi government would pursue legal action against those accountable for the act of arson.

However, amidst these condemnations, the Iraqi government ordered the expulsion of the Swedish Ambassador from the country and also warned the Swedish government “that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Qur’an on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations.” Furthermore, Iraq’s state news agency reported the suspension of Swedish communication company Ericsson’s licence to operate in the country.

In conclusion, the planned Koran burning in Stockholm triggered significant reactions in Iraq. The Swedish embassy was attacked, and although the Iraqi government condemned the incident, it expelled the Swedish ambassador and warned about the consequences on Swedish-Iraqi diplomatic relations.

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