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U.S. consulate in Iraq shuts down over Iran-linked threat

By Sommer Brokaw
U.S. consulate in Iraq shuts down over Iran-linked threat
Iraqis chanted slogans and carried banners during a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Basra governorate in Basra, Iraq, last month. Amid the escalating tensions, the U.S. consulate in Basra was closed down Friday. File Photo by Haider al-Assadee/EPA-EFE

Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. government has closed a U.S. consulate in Iraq temporarily and evacuated diplomats over security risks from Iran, administration officials said.

The U.S. consulate in the southern Iraq city of Basra was shut down Friday hours after a rocket attack in the area blamed on Iranian-backed militias.

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Secretary of State Michael Pompeo ordered the evacuation of diplomats from the consulate, the U.S. U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Iraq announced in a statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will continue providing consular service in the area, the statement said.

The southern part of Iraq has faced violent protests against government corruption and lack of basic services since June with arson attacks of several government buildings earlier this month.

"We remain strongly committed to supporting Iraqis in the southern provinces and throughout the country," U.S. Department of State Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Hours before Pompeo's decision to close the consulate, rockets or mortars landed near the building, an official said.

The U.S. consulate has faced credible threats from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, a senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal.

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On Friday, a senior Iran military leader warned the United States against crossing Iran's "red lines."

Brigadier General Hossein Salami said the perpetrators of a terrorist attack on a military parade Saturday in southwest Iran that killed at least 29 people were backed by regional elements including the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo denies that the United States had anything to do with the military parade attack.

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