At least 12 arrested in Baghdad after riot at KFC over Israel-Hamas war

After third attack on Iraqi capital’s KFC restaurants in two weeks, local Iran-backed militia Kataeb Hezbollah calls on Iraqis to ‘boycott and expel’ US brands

File: A Kentucky Fried Chicken logo. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
File: A Kentucky Fried Chicken logo. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Iraqi security forces cracked down Monday on rioters in Baghdad who were attacking a KFC eatery, wounding three people with live fire and detaining at least 12, security and medical sources told Reuters.

Social media reports that could not be independently verified suggested that other American-style restaurants were attacked as well.

The attack on Monday caused significant damage but no injuries to staff or customers, the sources said. Iraqi security forces did not immediately comment on the incident.

It was at least the third such event in just over a week, reported just as a senior official in the Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kataeb Hezbollah released a statement calling on Iraqis to “boycott and expel” US brands.

The store was opened by Americana Group, the Middle East and North Africa franchise of fast-food restaurants KFC and Pizza Hut. Americana did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Three American-style businesses, including two KFC locations, were attacked in Baghdad last week, in a spree of incidents that included one makeshift bomb thrown from a motorcycle and a break-in by a group of masked men.

The KFC brand, previously known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, is owned by US-based Yum! Brands.

Iraq has been trying to encourage foreign businesses to set up shop in the country amid a period of relative stability that has at times been shaken by security incidents, including months of tit-for-tat attacks between Iran-backed armed groups and US forces in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.

But Western brands have been hit by boycotts and other forms of protest against Israel amid the war in Gaza that was started by Hamas’s devastating October 7 attack.

The boycotts have hurt the fast food industry in countries across the Middle East and Southeast Asia, according to a report last month in Time Magazine.

The article said that international sales at McDonald’s increased by only 0.7% in the last quarter of 2023, compared to 16.5% growth in the same period the previous year.

McDonald’s drew the ire of BDS activists after local franchises provided free meals to Israeli soldiers.

In April, the McDonald’s Corporation purchased its brand back from Alonyal Limited, the Israeli corporation that had operated the chain in Israel for more than three decades, overseeing 225 restaurants at the time of the acquisition.

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