Middle EastWar

Rockets hit US embassy in Baghdad amid standoff with Iran

The strike is the first to hit the US embassy, though no casualties have been reported

Three out of five rockets fired on Sunday directly hit the U.S. embassy in Iraq’s capital, a security source told AFP, including one that slammed into a cafeteria at dinner time.

The U.S. embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but a statement by Iraqi security forces earlier Sunday said there were no casualties in the attack.

Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone has been regularly hit by rockets in recent months, but none of the attacks have been claimed. Sunday’s attack marks the first reported incidence of a direct hit on the embassy itself.

The rocket attack was the second in a week near the embassy, after three rockets landed near the mission on January 20.

A U.S. source separately told AFP that last Monday’s attack saw at least one rocket land near the deputy ambassador’s residence.

The attack took place earlier in the day than usual, with AFP reporters hearing the booms on the western bank of the river Tigris at precisely 7:30 p.m. (1630 GMT).

Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi and Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Halbusi both condemned the attack, saying it risked dragging their homeland into war.

Abdel Mahdi emphasized in his statement that the government had already begun measures to remove “foreign forces” from the country.

Demonstrators in Baghdad on Friday called for the withdrawal of American troops from the country. The U.S. maintains some 5,000 troops in Iraq in support of the international military Coalition against ISIS and NATO’s stabilization mission in Iraq.

A rocket attack last month on a northern Iraqi base where U.S. troops are stationed killed an American contractor. In retaliation, the U.S. carried out airstrikes that killed some 25 Kataib Hezbollah personnel.

The U.S. has blamed Iran-linked militias in Iraq for such attacks, including the predominantly-Shiite Kataib Hezbollah militia, which operates with significant autonomy from Baghdad’s authority and has ties to Iran.

Supporters of the group besieged the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in retaliation for the strike.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran-linked militias in Iraq ratcheted up further just days later on January 2, when a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed senior Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s deputy Hashd al-Shaabi head, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis – one of the founders of Kataib Hezbollah.

The Trump administration has recently designated a number of Iran-linked militia figures in Iraq as terrorists as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.

The U.S. accuses Iran of expanding its military influence by advising and training proxy militias in Iraq and Syria in recent years, a move Washington deems as destabilizing to the region.


With reporting from AFP.

Tags
Show More

Related Articles