Satellite Spots Iraqi Protests at US Embassy from Space (Photos)

A wider view from WorldView-3 of pro-Iranian protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 1, 2019.

The WorldView-3 Earth observation satellite operated by Maxar Technologies captured this view of pro-Iranian protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 1, 2019. This annotated view labels major points of interest in the image. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies)

A Maxar Technologies satellite in orbit has spotted the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, showing views of the New Year's Day demonstration from above. 

Maxar's WorldView-3 Earth-observation satellite captured images of crowds of demonstrators at the U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad on Jan. 1. The photos show protesters at the entrance of the compound, with the black plume from a small fire visible in one image. 

"The imagery, collected at 11:21 a.m. local time, reveals crowds of people gathered along the street adjacent to the compound and small fires burning on a building and sentry box near the compound," Maxar representatives said in an image description.

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A wider view from WorldView-3 of pro-Iranian protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 1, 2019. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies)

Thousands of pro-Iranian demonstrators swarmed the American Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday (Dec. 31), forcing their way into the U.S. compound and set fires on some outbuildings, according to the New York Times. Embassy personnel were trapped inside the compound during the protest. By Wednesday, the Times reported, those crowds were smaller and remained outside the compound. 

The demonstrators were protesting American airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias. The airstrikes were in response to a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded several Iraqi and U.S. military service members.

The U.S. airstrikes hit five targets in Iraq and Syria, killing at least 24 people and wounding 48 others, according to the New York Times. Iranian officials have said the airstrikes killed 31 people, the Times added. By Thursday (Jan. 2), the crowds of demonstrators had dispersed in a full withdrawal pushed by Iranian-backed militias, according to the Times. 

Maxar's WorldView-3 satellite that captured the new photos has been snapping Earth imagery from orbit for just over five years. 

The satellite launched in 2014 (then owned by DigitalGlobe, which was acquired by Maxar) and can resolve features as small as 1 foot (31 centimeters) across.

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Tariq Malik Editor-in-chief

Tariq is the editor-in-chief of Live Science's sister site He joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, focusing on human spaceflight, exploration and space science. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times, covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University.

  • Majimoto
    What crowds-- I see no more than normal street pedestrian traffic. This has to be either Non news or utterly Fake. Surely you could photoshop a thundering humongous crowd going wild.
    Or maybe my eyesight ain't what it used to be?🤭🤔