DSS Special Agents Receive Group Achievement Award for Security Response During Civil Unrest in Iraq


The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) awarded the FLEOA Group Achievement Award to 34 special agents with the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) for defending the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, against direct and indirect attacks during 24 hours of sustained civil unrest in August of 2022.

On August 29, 2022, Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Movement and an influential Iraqi politician and militia leader, announced his official “resignation” from Iraqi politics. Following this announcement, Sadrist-aligned protests began organizing throughout the country. What began as protests and civil unrest devolved into open combat on the streets of Baghdad by rival militia groups. Over the course of 24 hours, the escalating violence made its way into the International Zone, where 3,000 U.S. personnel lived and worked at the U.S. Baghdad Embassy Compound (BEC). Their safety and wellbeing, and the security of the compound, were under the protection of the embassy’s regional security office (RSO), and the DSS special agents and other security personnel assigned there.

By nightfall, the violence – including small arms fire, grenades, tear gas, and RPG launchers – moved ever closer to the BEC and its personnel. Thick smoke plumes and sustained audible gunfire could be seen and heard by residents of the compound. While most embassy personnel were under a safety curfew, the RSO team who had been closely monitoring the situation throughout the day took up defensive positions around the BEC.

Throughout the night and the following morning, embassy personnel responded to numerous duck-and-cover alarms as rocket rounds and small arms fire intensified and directly impacted the embassy compound, including multiple impacts to battle positions staffed by RSO security personnel. As the fighting continued through the city, RSO teams continued to move about the compound in accordance with their duties and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all embassy personnel.

According to the award nomination, “Security personnel under RSO command were deployed in full battle readiness in harm’s way, under constant threat of fire, to maintain their posts and ensure the integrity of the compound, while taking sustained small arms and indirect fire (IDF) over the course of the conflict.”

This cadence of intense fighting around the BEC continued until the afternoon of August 30, when al-Sadr delivered a speech calling for an end to the violence. The RSO Baghdad team successfully defended the U.S. embassy and kept U.S. personnel safe during this 24-hour period of violent conflict. Their efforts and willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to protect residents of the BEC resulted in no casualties or injuries, and only property damage to some embassy buildings.

DSS has the largest global presence of any U.S. law enforcement organization, operating at more than 270 U.S. diplomatic posts in over 170 countries, and in 30+ U.S. cities. The organization is responsible for investigating transnational crimes and for protecting State Department facilities, people, and information.

For more information, contact ds-press@state.gov.

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