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Rocket hits near US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq

U.S. Marines in Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kyle C. Talbot)
May 19, 2020

A rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq early on Tuesday morning.

The Katyusha rocket hit an empty house and caused minor damages, according to an Iraqi military statement reported by the Associated Press. Iraqi military authorities who investigated the attack believe the rocket was fired from the nearby Al-Idrisi neighborhood on Palestine Street. The rocket reportedly caused minor damage and no injuries have been reported at this time.

An unnamed Iraqi official who spoke with Associated Press reporters said the rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone, but could not elaborate further.

The Green Zone is the area where many government buildings and foreign embassies are located and is highly fortified, though there have been previous attacks against the U.S. Embassy in the government and diplomatic quarter.

The U.S. has blamed the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, an Iraqi paramilitary group with close ties to Iran, for past rocket attacks like the one seen Tuesday. The flag of the militia group was seen being waived by many protestors who stormed the U.S. Embassy compound late last December and set fires and smashed gates and windows. Those late December protests were believed to have been in reaction to U.S. airstrikes that targeted the Kata’ib Hezbollah after the militia carried out a prior rocket attack.

In the days that followed the December embassy attack, the U.S., believing Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani had been behind the storming of the embassy, launched an airstrike that killed the general while he was in Baghdad with other pro-Iranian Iraqi militias. The strike that killed Soleimani set off a series of escalatory responses between Iran and the U.S. before tensions eventually subsided.

Another pair of rockets landed in the Green Zone early in the morning on March 26, days after the U.S. announced temporary changes to its force posture in the country.

The latest rocket attack comes just weeks after Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power in Iraq. The attack is the first since Al-Khadami took office.

Al-Kadhimi has indicated he is preparing for diplomatic and strategic talks with the U.S. which are expected to take place next month. Talks are expected to touch on security and economic cooperation, though the talks will likely also address concerns about various militias, like the Kata’ib Hezbollah, operating in Iraq without state control.

Last week al-Kadhimi ordered Iraqi Security Forces to raid the office of an Iran-aligned party, the Thaar Allah party, whose militia members had fired on protestors and killed one in the southern province of Basra. In total, five members of the group were arrested and weapons were confiscated.