3 rockets hit US Embassy in Iraq amid anti-government protests
Reports say that one rocket hit the US Embassy cafeteria while two others landed a short distance away. No group claimed responsibility but Washington has blamed Iran-backed military factions in Iraq in the past.
Three rockets struck the US Embassy compound in Baghdad on Sunday, marking a dangerous escalation in a series of rocket strikes in recent months that targeted the Embassy or Iraqi military bases where American troops are deployed.
One person was injured in the Sunday strike, but the injury was minor and the individual had since returned to duty, said the US media reports.
Reports say that one rocket hit the Embassy cafeteria while two others landed a short distance away. No group claimed responsibility but Washington has blamed Iran-backed military factions in Iraq in the past.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the attack, stating that the continuation of such acts could "drag Iraq into becoming a battlefield".
The US State Department said: "We call on the Government of Iraq to fulfil its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities."
The State Department did not directly blame Tehran for the rocket strikes, but the spokesperson's statement made reference to Iranian threats in the region and past attacks by Iranian-backed militias on US interests.
"The security situation remains tense and Iranian-backed armed groups remain a threat. So, we remain vigilant," the spokesperson said. Since September there have been more than 14 attacks by Iran and Iranian-supported militias on US personnel in Iraq, according to the State Department.
One protester killed, over 100 injured in Iraq
Meanwhile, one protester was killed in Baghdad, Reuters reported, and more than 100 demonstrators were hurt in violence in the capital and several other cities after the security forces tried to clear sit-in protest camps.
The protestors are demanding the removal of what they call a "corrupt ruling elite" and an end to foreign interference in Iraqi politics, especially by Iran.
Unrest resumed last week, after a lull of several weeks, following the January 3 US drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi commander of the pro-Iranian Hashd al-Shaabi militia group.
US Rep. Michael McCaul, the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs committee, said he is "closely monitoring reports of a rocket attack targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad".
“I am closely monitoring reports of a rocket attack targeting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Violent acts against our diplomatic facilities are simply unacceptable. We must ensure the safety of American diplomats, troops and other Americans in Iraq.” -LR @RepMcCaul— House Foreign Affairs GOP (@HouseForeignGOP) January 26, 2020
Earlier this month, the Embassy was the site of mass protests in response to US airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia group at the end of December.
Those strikes were launched in retaliation to attacks by an Iranian-backed Shia militia group known as Kataib Hezbollah, which had injured numerous American military personnel, according to US officials.
The Embassy is in Baghdad's Green Zone where the embassies of the US and several other western countries are located. It was initially carved out of central Baghdad by US-led forces after their invasion of Iraq in 2003 and is largely viewed as a safe location, despite frequently being the target of rocket attacks.
There have been numerous rocket attacks on the Green Zone and the area surrounding it in recent months. However, the whole of Iraq is on a heightened state of alert as tensions between the US and Iran have dramatically increased in recent weeks.
On Friday, the Pentagon revealed that 34 US service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following an Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq earlier this month.
The Iranian attack was a response to the US killing of key Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike at Baghdad International airport.