Iranian consulate torched in a dramatic escalation of events

Iranian consulate torched in a dramatic escalation of events

NAJAF - Iraqi protesters torched the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Najaf on Wednesday in a dramatic escalation of anti-government demonstrations that have left more than 350 people dead.

Tall flames and thick clouds of smoke rose from the entrance of the consulate in the southern city, AFP's correspondent there said.

"Victory to Iraq!" and "Iran out!" protesters chanted, outraged at the country they blame for propping up a government they've been demonstrating against for nearly two months.

Iraq's capital and its Shiite-majority south have been gripped by the largest grassroots protests since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The change of regime 16 years ago opened the door for Baghdad's eastern neighbour to develop tremendous economic, political and military sway, now slammed by protesters as overreach.

Iran's consulate in Iraq's second holy city of Karbala was targeted earlier this month, and security forces defending the site shot four demonstrators dead at the time.

In Najaf on Wednesday, units fired tear gas that wounded several dozen but ultimately retreated as hundreds of people encircled the consulate and lit tyres, blankets, cardboard and other items, AFP's correspondent said. -APP/AFP