Iraq: Rocket lands near US embassy inside Baghdad's Green Zone

2020-05-19 16:42
Iraqi protesters wave a national flag in front of the outer wall of the US embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone during a on December 31, 2019.

Iraqi protesters wave a national flag in front of the outer wall of the US embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone during a on December 31, 2019. (Ahmad al-Rubaye, AFP)

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A rocket has hit an empty house in the Iraqi capital's heavily fortified Green Zone, a military statement has said.

The rocket was launched from an eastern district of Baghdad, according to the statement, and was the first to land in the high-security zone in weeks. There were no reports of casualties in the attack.

READ | Iraq's new PM: former spy chief with friends on all sides

The blast could be heard across Baghdad and triggered security sirens at the US embassy compound, security forces told AFP news agency. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The United States blames a series of rocket attacks near or on bases hosting its troops this year on Iran-aligned groups, although those groups have not claimed them.

The volleys of rockets, which have killed American, British and Iraqi armed personnel, have severely strained ties between Baghdad and Washington.

Framework

But the US and Iraq have hoped to reset the relationship since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took the helm earlier this month, with bilateral talks planned for June.

The negotiations are expected to set a framework for the presence of US troops, which deployed to Iraq in 2014 to lead a coalition fighting back the ISIL (ISIS) group.

The forces are a thorn in the side of Iran and its allies in Iraq, which have insisted they leave the country.

On Sunday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US "will not be staying either in Iraq or Syria and must withdraw and will certainly be expelled".

Tension between Washington and Tehran has ramped up over the last year, culminating in the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraq's paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike at Baghdad airport in January.

Iran-backed paramilitary groups promised to avenge the killings and rocket attacks on bases hosting US troops have persisted.

The US-led coalition has already drawn down its 7 500-strong force in Iraq this year, citing a decreased threat from ISIL and difficulties training Iraqi forces due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Read more on:    iraq  |  security
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