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Iraq arrests several over attacks on KFC, US chain restaurants

Armed group Kataeb Hezbollah calling for boycott of US brands over Washington's support for Israel's war on Gaza
Iraqi security forces vehicles are stationed in front of a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut fast food restaurants in the Al-Jadriya neighbourhood in Baghdad on 30 May 2024.
Iraqi security forces vehicles are stationed in front of a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut fast food restaurants in al-Jadriya neighbourhood of Baghdad, Iraq, on 30 May (Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP)

Iraqi authorities arrested several individuals in the aftermath of a number of attacks on American restaurant chains, including a riot that took place at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Baghdad, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The arrests included individuals from Iraqi security force personnel, the ministry said, as a growing number of people inside Iraq are calling for the boycott of US brands over Washington's support for Israel's war on Gaza.

The attacks intended to "harm American interests", the ministry said, adding that several suspects had been arrested over last week's attacks.

"Unfortunately, it appeared that some of them belong to one of the security apparatuses and had carried out these actions to harm American interests," the ministry said.

One security source told AFP that 13 suspects were arrested on Monday.

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On Monday, a KFC location in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, was vandalised, and several of the chain restaurant's locations were also attacked last week. 

Monday's attack came after Kataeb Hezbollah, an armed group in Iraq which is a part of the umbrella group Hashd al-Shaabi, called on supporters to "boycott and expel" US brands, which they denounced as "spy" entities affiliated with the "occupation".

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Hashd al-Shaabi is also integrated into the country's security forces. Prominent Iranian-backed Shia armed factions, such as the Badr Organisation and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, represent the Hashd al-Shaabi's backbone and forces.

Since Israel's war in Gaza started in October, calls to boycott Israel and US-linked brands and products have skyrocketed in the Arab and Muslim world. Some of the targets of these boycotts have also extended beyond the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, with brands like KFC, McDonald's, and other American food chains being targeted.

US-Iraqi relations have been precarious since the war on Gaza broke out in October, with the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed armed groups, launching attacks on US forces over Washington's support for Israel.

US and allied troops have been targeted more than 165 times in the Middle East since mid-October, the majority of them claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

In late January, an attack on a US air base in Jordan left three US soldiers dead and injured more than 30 others.

The US said that the attack was linked to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and that it had "the footprints of Kataeb Hezbollah". The US retaliated with a series of air strikes in Syria and Iraq that killed 23 people.

Kataeb Hezbollah quickly responded by saying it would stop attacks on the US. However, the Islamic Resistance has continued to launch attacks on Israel, most recently with a claim that it targeted the city of Haifa with a drone attack.

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