In the early hours of Friday, the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone was subjected to an attack by at least three rockets, which landed on the periphery of the area containing government and diplomatic structures, according to an Iraqi security official. As of now, no group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Sirens could be heard across the zone, a heavily fortified international area home to many of the world’s embassies. The attack came a day after US airstrikes in northern Iraq killed Iranian-backed militia commander Qassem Soleimani, who was leading a network of Shiite militias in the country. Pro-Iran militias have since vowed revenge and warned of new attacks against American forces in the country, which has roughly 2,500 troops and some 900 trainers to help secure the country against a resurgence by the Islamic State group.
The embassy confirmed the rocket attack in a statement, calling it “the latest in a series of assaults on US facilities in Iraq by Iran-backed terrorist groups.” A US official told reports that one person had been injured in the incident, adding that the person is a civilian employee at the embassy who has been released from the hospital. The embassy statement also said that the missiles reached the compound and engaged its defense systems, including its C-RAM system, which is supposed to detect and destroy incoming rockets, artillery, and mortar shells. The thunder of the defense system’s launching was audible by Associated Press reporters standing on the other side of the Tigris River from the embassy.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the rocket attack in a call with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. He called Iraq to “fulfill its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities.”
POLITICO has learned that the three Katyusha rockets struck a few miles from the embassy in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. They landed close to the Green Zone, surrounded by concrete walls and sits on a riverbank. The AP reports that the rockets were fired from a site in the nearby village of Zafaraniya.
Iraqi politicians, officials, foreign diplomats, and other guests work in the Green Zone. The area was carved out of central Baghdad by the US-led coalition forces after they invaded the country in 2003 and is considered safe, though it has been hit by several rockets in recent years.
The last severe rocket attack on the Green Zone was in March when a round hit near the entrance to the embassy as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was giving a news conference. At the time, Ban ducked behind his podium as small debris chips fell on him. The attack prompted the US military to carry out airstrikes against Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group that specializes in attacking American-led forces in Iraq. The Pentagon defended the strikes as a necessary response to an assault that threatened American personnel and civilians in Iraq. The US is building a new embassy in Baghdad, Washington’s most extensive and expensive foreign mission.