Watch: Radical Shia Group Storms, Briefly Takes Over, Azerbaijan Embassy In London
A London-based Shia Muslim organization has stormed and briefly taken over the embassy of Azerbaijan in the UK capital, the government of Azerbaijan has confirmed, with local police announcing that eight men have been arrested.
The group, called the Mahdi Servants Union, was seen on the embassy balcony waiving their distinctive flag at the embassy located in Kensington neighborhood. The men have reportedly been charged with trespassing and “criminal damage”. Social media videos showed the group scrawling protest messages written in Arabic on the external embassy walls in the rare incident, with a crowd of onlookers beholding the mayhem from the street…
— Raoul Lowery Contreras (@sdrlc) August 4, 2022
The Daily Mail describes of the scene, “Some were using head dresses, or a keffiyeh, to cover their faces as they chanted messages to the crowds who had gathered below, before replacing the Azerbaijani flag with their own.”
Apparently the standoff and brief embassy siege ended when UK police stormed the compound. “One video showed the building on Kensington Court cordoned off as several police officers with helmets and shields prepared to storm inside,” the report continues. A Met Police statement said:
“Police were called at approximately 16:30hrs on Thursday, 4 August to the Azerbaijan Embassy in Kensington to reports of protestors who had entered the premises.”
“Officers attended and engaged with those present. Eight men were arrested on suspicion of trespass and criminal damage.”
There appeared to be clashes with police before the embassy was taken back, and the official Azerbaijan flag subsequently raised…
Shocking behaviour by a group of protesters at 🇦🇿 #Azerbaijan ‘s London embassy. Violent and criminal actions against diplomatic missions anywhere must be condemned. Hope those working inside were safe. pic.twitter.com/s7ESnToclj
— Ed Crymble (@crymble_ed) August 4, 2022
The Mahdi Servants Union as a hardline religious group focused on Shia affairs has long condemned Azerbaijan government authorities for “oppression” against Muslims. Though the country remains majority Shia, it is largely secular in its polices and orientation when compared to places like Iran or Saudi Arabia. The group is led by Shia cleric Yasser Al Habib.
Some commentators have dubbed the group a “cult” and say that they don’t have Iranian backing:
FAKE NEWS ALERT: The group of radicals who attacked Azerbaijan’s London Embassy are NOT “Iran backed”.
— Robert Carter (@Bob_cart124) August 4, 2022
While it’s unclear whether the protest and embassy takeover was connected to broader geopolitical events, there’s been longtime border tensions and military build-up between Iran and Azerbaijan along their shared border.
Thu, 08/04/2022 – 18:40