Several rockets hit the US Embassy complex in Iraq (update)

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Details continue to arrive, but a number of rockets hit the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, causing minor damage but no casualties. Iranian-backed Iraqi militias in the country have been launching sporadic rocket attacks against various US military and diplomatic facilities for more than a year now, but this would be the first publicly acknowledged case where they have actually affected part of the country. ‘enclosure of the embassy in the Iraqi capital during these strikes. It comes as US forces in the region remain on high alert after weeks of heightened tensions with Iran and its proxies, including Iraqi militias, following a US drone strike that killed an senior Iranian commander earlier this month and a subsequent Iranian ballistic missile strike aimed at US personnel in Iraq.

The latest rocket attack took place around 7:30 p.m. local time on January 26, 2020, in Baghdad, with militants reportedly firing a total of five artillery rockets towards the vast green area. This area of ​​Baghdad, which was closed to the public for years after the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of the country in 2003, is home to various diplomatic missions and Iraqi government buildings. Initial reports did not indicate that none of the rockets fell within the embassy compound, which raised alarms, but Iraqi and US government sources reportedly said. said later various electrical outlets that one of the rockets hit a dining room and two more fell nearby. CNN reported that an initial damage assessment is still in progress.

Video is already circulating online showing the rocket attack, as well as warning sirens going off inside Union III Forward Operating Base, an American military installation located near the embassy compound. No group has claimed responsibility so far, but previous similar strikes targeting US diplomatic and military personnel in Iraq have been linked to Iranian-backed militias in the country.

“Once again, the assault on a foreign diplomatic mission is repeated, with a number of Katyusha rockets falling inside the US Embassy campus,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a press release. “We ordered our forces to deploy, search and investigate to prevent the repetition of such attacks and to arrest those who fired these rockets so that they can be punished by a court.”

Mohamed Al Halbousi, an Iraqi politician who is currently chairman of the Council of Representatives, also condemned the attack. There has not yet been an official statement from the US State Department or the US military.

These are believed to be the first rockets confirmed to have hit the US Embassy compound, despite the growing number of attacks launched by Iranian-backed Iraqi militias towards the Green Zone in recent years. last months. These same militant groups fired rockets at other facilities this american diplomat and military personnel use throughout Iraq on a fairly regular basis, dating back to 2018.

One of these earlier incidents, on December 28, killed an American entrepreneur, Nawres Hamid, a naturalized American citizen who had emigrated from Iraq. On December 31, the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad was also attacked by mobs, including members of Iran-backed militias.

These incidents sparked a series of events that first led to a US drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. This, in turn, has precipitated an unprecedented Iranian ballistic missile strike. targeting areas occupied by US forces at Al Asad Air Base and Erbil Airport in Iraq on January 7. Despite early reports, U.S. officials say now that 34 people were injured in these strikes, which also caused extensive damage to Al Asad.

There is unconfirmed reports that rocket attacks targeting the Green Zone, including the most recent incident on January 20, also hit the embassy compound, but left no casualties.

It remains to be seen how the United States responds. US officials had previously indicated that there was hope that the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani had made it clear to Iran and its proxies that the continued attacks on US forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East would not. would not go unanswered.

“You’re not allowed to just fire 31 rockets at US forces and – and we’re just supposed to take that as the cost of doing business,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told reporters. . January 16, 2020, referring to the strike that killed Nawres Hamid in December. “The impact of it [the Soleimani strike] however, and being an overt and attributable action, is that the Iranians had to recalibrate the – the deterrence and now understand that there is some – that – that we are not going to allow the attacks to progress. ”

We will continue to update our story as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: 5:50 p.m. EST

There are now reports that there was at least one American victim of the rocket attack.

UPDATE: 8:05 p.m. EST

CNN reports that the only American victim was a minor and that the individual in question, who has not yet been identified in any way, has resumed his duties.

The US State Department made a brief official statement VOA, in which he only says he is “aware of the reports” of the rocket attacks, but offered no further details. There have also been conflicting reports on the total number of rockets that fell inside the embassy compound.

“The security situation remains tense and armed groups backed by Iran remain a threat,” a State Department spokesman said. also said CNN, but did not specifically blame any of these militias for the rocket attack. “So we remain vigilant.”

UPDATE: 01/27/2020

A spokesperson for the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a government-sanctioned umbrella organization that includes a number of Iranian-backed militias, insisted that none of the groups it oversees was responsible for the rocket attacks on the US Embassy compound.

Senior State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus also spoke issued the following statement regarding a phone call between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi:

“Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke today with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi. Secretary Pompeo expressed his outrage at the continued assaults by Iranian armed groups on US installations in Iraq, including the rocket attacks on our embassy yesterday, which resulted in an injury. The secretary once again stressed that these attacks demonstrated a blatant disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and a failure to bring these dangerous armed groups under control. He appreciated Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi’s pledge to strengthen security to protect US personnel and diplomatic facilities. The secretary noted that we view last night’s attack on the embassy as an attempt to distract Iraqi and international crackdown on peaceful Iraqi protesters by Iran and its proxies Secretary Pompeo urged Prime Minister tre to maintain Iraqi sovereignty and reaffirmed the Enduring commitment of States to the Iraqi people, our willingness to discuss the extent of our forces in Iraq over time and our desire for a strong and prosperous Iraq, as stated in our bilateral strategic framework agreement. “

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