Eight Rockets Target US Embassy in Baghdad, US Blames Iran-Backed Militias

At least eight Katyusha rockets landed in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone in an attack targeting the US Embassy, causing some minor damage on the compound on Sunday, the Iraqi military and the embassy said on Sunday, Middle East Monitor reports.

The Iraqi military said an “outlaw group” fired eight rockets. Most of the missiles hit a residential complex and a security checkpoint inside the zone, damaging buildings and cars and wounding one Iraqi soldier, a military statement said.

Sirens blared from the embassy compound inside the zone, which houses government buildings and foreign missions. An anti-rocket system diverted one of the rockets, said one security official whose office is inside the Green Zone.

The US Embassy condemned the attack and urged all Iraqi political and governmental leaders to take steps to prevent such attacks and to hold accountable those responsible.

“The US Embassy confirms rockets targeting the International Zone resulted in the engagement of Embassy defensive systems. There was some minor damage on the Embassy compound but no injuries or casualties,” it said in a statement.

In a subsequent statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there had been at least one Iraqi civilian casualty and wished those hurt a speedy recovery.

The US embassy’s C-RAM defence system, which is used to destroy missiles midair, was activated to deflect the attack, the embassy said in a statement quoted by Al Jazeera. The C-RAM system was installed by the US in the middle of the year as armed groups stepped up rocket attacks targeting the embassy and its premises.

The US withdrew some staff from its embassy in Baghdad earlier this month, temporarily reducing personnel before the first anniversary of the US air strike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s airport on January 3. The US officials said the reduction of the staff stemmed from concerns about a possible retaliatory attack.

Soleimani’s killing sparked outrage and led Iraq’s parliament to pass a non-binding resolution days later, calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops from Iraq. In Iraq, the US plans to reduce the number of troops from 3,000 to 2,500 by mid-January, before Trump is to leave office. But the frequency of rocket attacks in Iraq has frustrated the Trump administration.

The United States has blamed Iran-backed militias for a rocket attack Sunday on the heavily fortified Green Zone in Iraq’s capital, according to Voice of America.

Pompeo said the United States “strongly condemns the latest attack by Iran-backed militias.”

“We call on all Iraqis to support their government’s efforts to reinforce Iraq’s sovereignty, to bring to justice those responsible for these reprehensible attacks and ensure that all the currently Iran-backed militias are under state control,” Pompeo said in a statement late Sunday.

But in an unusual move, several factions condemned Sunday’s attack.

Moqtada Sadr, a populist scholar and former militia leader, tweeted that “no one has the right to use weapons outside of the state”. Even Kataib Hezbollah, which has been blamed for other attacks, issued an online statement.

“Bombing the embassy of evil (US embassy) at this time is considered out of order,” it said, while also condemning the US embassy’s use of the C-RAM system.

Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman denounced the rocket attack on the US embassy in Baghdad, noting that, however, the timing of the attack and the US’ immediate claims seems suspicious, Mehr News adds.

“Attacking diplomatic and residential premises is not acceptable, but the type of attack and its timing and the statement issued by the US Secretary of State show that the timing is very suspicious and they had already prepared a statement to publish,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said during his weekly presser on Monday.