A Katyusha rocket fell less than one kilometer from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, according to an Iraqi security official.
By Associated Press
A day after the U.S. eliminated Iran’s top general in a targeted airstrike, a series of rockets were launched at the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy, in addition to other government offices and foreign embassies.
The rocket attack appeared to a response to the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force and mastermind of its regional terror operations.
Soleimani was killed early Friday near the Baghdad international airport along with senior Iraqi militants in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump.
In a thinly-veiled threat, one of the Iran-backed militia, Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Bridages, called on Iraqi security forces to stay at least 1,000 meters (0.6 miles) away from U.S. bases starting Sunday night.
“The leaders of the security forces should protect their fighters and not allow them to become human shields to the occupying Crusaders,” the warning statement said, in reference to the coalition bases. The group is founded by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior Iraqi militia commander who was killed in the same strike.
On Saturday evening, rockets fell inside the Green Zone.
One Katyusha rocket fell inside a square less than one kilometer from the embassy, according to an Iraqi security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. No one was injured by that rocket.
Another rocket in Baghdad landed about 500 meters from As-Salam palace where the Iraqi President Barham Salih normally stays in Jadriya, a neighborhood adjacent to the Green Zone, the official said.
Another security official said three rockets fell outside an air base north of Baghdad were American contractors are normally present. The rockets landed outside the base in a farm area and there were no reports of damages, according to the official.
Also on Saturday, a spokesman for the Iraqi armed forces said the movement of coalition forces, including US troops, in the air and on the ground will be restricted, conditioned on receiving approval from Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the commander in chief of the armed forces.
It was not immediately clear what the new restrictions would mean, given that coalition troops were already subject to limitations and had to be coordinated with the Joint Operation Command of top Iraqi military commanders.
Iraq’s government, which is closely allied with Iran, condemned the airstrike that killed Soleimani, calling it an attack on its national sovereignty. Parliament is meeting for an emergency session Sunday, and the government has come under mounting pressure to expel the 5,200 American troops based in the country, who are there to help prevent a resurgence of the ISIS terror group.
In Baghdad, thousands of mourners, mostly men in black military fatigues, carried Iraqi flags and the flags of Iran-backed militias that are fiercely loyal to Soleimani at Saturday’s ceremony.
Billboards and images of Soleimani, whom pro-regime forces saw as a hero of the so-called Axis of Resistance against the West, appeared on major streets in Iran Saturday with the warning from the supreme leader that “harsh revenge” awaits the U.S.