24 September, 2019
BAGHDAD: Several rockets have been fired towards Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, landing near the embassy of the United States in Iraq, according to security sources cited by news agencies.
Residents of the Iraqi capital reportedly heard the explosions followed by alert sirens that sounded briefly across the Tigris River overnight on Tuesday.
There were no reports of casualties and no claim of responsibility for the attack on the zone, a heavily-protected area hosting government offices and foreign embassies.
A foreign security source inside the Green Zone said two 100mm rockets hit close to the US embassy and a third fell into the Tigris River, which the embassy overlooks.
“One hit about three metres [10 feet] inside a gate on the embassy compound,” the source told AFP news agency.
An Iraqi security source confirmed to AFP that two Katyusha rockets landed near the embassy shortly before midnight.
The Iraqi military said two projectiles hit the edges of the Green Zone, according to AFP.
The Last rocket attack on the Green Zone took place on May 19 just days after the US announced an “ordered departure” of all non-essential diplomatic staff in Iraq amid rising tensions with neighboring Iran.
Iraq has enjoyed a period of relative stability since declaring victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant ISIL or ISIS group in late 2017.
In a sign of the improving security situation, Iraqi authorities have been working since last year to loosen security restrictions around the Green Zone.
Concrete blast walls have been removed and through-traffic has been allowed for the first time in over 10 years, but the US embassy remains one of the most highly-secured areas in the zone.
Baghdad has also tried to position itself as a potential mediator between the US and Iran, which have been at loggerheads since Washington unilaterally withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran last year.
Since that move, friction between the US and Iran has deepened, with Iraq – where both countries enjoy significant political and military influence – caught in the middle.
Tensions escalated this summer when a string of mysterious blasts hit weapons depots and other bases used by pro-Iran paramilitary forces known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
The PMF blamed the US and Israel, with its political branch calling the attacks “a declaration of war” and resuming its calls for US troops to leave the country. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)