Iran-backed Militias Fire Rocket Attacks Toward US Embassy in Iraq, Killing Child And Injuring Civilians

November 20, 2020 Updated: December 26, 2020

Several rockets were fired towards the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Nov.17, wounding at least two people, Iraq’s military said.

The embassy is located in the heavily fortified area that houses key government offices and other diplomatic facilities.

Two Iraqi security officials said one of the rockets that hit the Green Zone struck close to Iraq’s National Security Service, just 600 meters (2,000 feet) from the American Embassy. At least three of the seven rockets fired from the al-Amin al-Thaniyah neighborhood of Baghdad were intercepted by the Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-Ram) system installed by the United States earlier this year.

Three rockets landed outside the Green Zone, with one hitting close to Baghdad Medical City hospital, one at the gate of a public park, and a third exploding in the air. One child was killed and five civilians were wounded, the military said. Officials said two Iraqi security forces personnel were also wounded inside the Green Zone but the extent of their injuries was not immediately known. No Americans were killed or wounded in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, however Kataib Hezbollah and its political ally in the Iraqi parliament, the Fatah Coalition, issued separate statements denying the involvement of Shiite militias in the attack.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in a statement on Twitter strongly condemned the attack, noting that it had seen reports that “Iran-backed militias again took credit for the attack.”

“Lawless militias supported by Iran’s Qods Force continue to destabilize Iraq, kill Iraqi citizens, and threaten Iraq’s sovereignty. We call on the Government of Iraq to arrest and hold accountable those who continue to perpetrate acts of violence against the Iraqi state,” they wrote.

Voice of America reported that a new group supportive of the Iranian regime called Ashab al-Kahf or “the cave companions” had claimed responsibility for the attack on social media. Iraqi intelligence sources told VoA that Ashab al-Kahf was a subgroup of Kataib Hezbollah, which has frequently attacked the U.S. embassy in Iraq.

The attack on Tuesday came less than an hour after the Pentagon announced plans to reduce its troop levels in both Iraq and Afghanistan to about 2,500 each. There are currently more than 4,000 troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 soldiers in Iraq.

Acting Department of Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on Tuesday said the move was designed to reduce the “heavy burden of perpetual war” on future generations.

According to the Pentagon chief, who was named to the position just over two weeks ago after former Secretary Mark Esper was fired, the number of soldiers will be reduced before Jan. 15, 2021.

“I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries,” he said in a news conference at the Pentagon. “I celebrate this day.” Miller noted that the move is due to the president’s “bold leadership.”

“This decision by the president is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet over the past several months including ongoing discussions with me and my colleagues across the United States government,” he added.

U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew former leader, Saddam Hussein before leaving in 2011. However, it returned in 2014 after the ISIS terrorist group overran large parts of the country.

Frequent attacks targeting the U.S. Embassy and vehicles transporting equipment for U.S. troops have led Washington to threaten to close its Baghdad diplomatic mission and sparked a diplomatic crisis prior to the U.S. presidential election.

In mid-October, Iran-backed mostly Shiite, militia groups announced they would temporarily halt attacks targeting the American presence in Iraq, including the embassy, on the condition that U.S.-led coalition troops withdraw from the country in line with a non-binding resolution passed in the Iraqi Parliament in January.