A volley of rockets exploded near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Sunday as tensions mounted on Iraqi soil ahead of the anniversary of the murder of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
AFP reporters in the east of the capital heard at least five booms on Sunday evening, followed by whistling noises.
A few moments later, they heard thunderous rapid-fire noises and saw streams of red flares in the dark sky, indicating that the U.S. Embassy C-RAM missile defense system had been activated.
Iraqi security forces issued a statement saying the attacks caused material damage but no victims.
A security source told AFP that at least three missiles landed near the US embassy in the green high-security zone, while two other separate residential areas had hit.
An Iraqi man who lived in a high-security building opposite the US diplomatic mission told AFP that his building had been hit.
“Everyone screams and weeps. My wife loses it from all the terrible noises,” he said, preferring to speak anonymously.
A MP told AFP that his home had been hit by a missile fragment, likely caused by the deflection or explosion of incoming missiles by the C-RAM.
The U.S. embassy and other foreign military and diplomatic sites have been attacked by dozens of rockets and roadside bombs since fall 2019.
Western and Iraqi officials have accused hardline groups, including the pro-Iranian faction Kataeb Hezbollah.
In October, these groups agreed an indefinite ceasefire, but Sunday’s attack is the third apparent violation.
On November 17, a volley of rockets struck the US embassy and various parts of the Iraqi capital, killing a young woman.
On December 10, two convoys carrying logistical equipment for the US-led coalition to help Iraqi forces fight jihadists were bombed on the roadside.
– ‘Out of order’ –
The attacks were alleged by groups that both US and Iraqi officials called a smoke screen for known Iranian-focused armed factions in Iraq.
In an unusual move, several factions condemned the attack on Sunday.
Moqtada Sadr, a populist clergyman and former militia leader, tweeted, “Nobody has the right to use weapons outside of the state.”
Even Kataeb Hezbollah, which has been blamed for other attacks, made an online statement.
“The bombing of the (US) embassy of evil at this point in time is considered to be out of order,” it said, condemning the use of the C-RAM system by the US embassy.
The statement could be an attempt to calm tensions ahead of the January 3rd anniversary of the US drone attack that killed Soleimani and leading Iraqi paramilitary figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandi.
Western and Iraqi officials told AFP they believe Iran wants to keep calm before US President Donald Trump leaves the White House next month.
Trump has pursued a “maximum pressure” policy against Iran, an approach that has also put pressure on his allies next door in Iraq.
Diplomats feared short-term military action by the Trump administration on Iranian interests in Iraq or a possible escalation of anti-US groups in Baghdad.
The US diplomatic mission has already partially withdrawn its staff for security reasons, two senior Iraqi officials told AFP earlier this month.
They described the move as “a minor disadvantage due to US security concerns” and said it was not a break in diplomatic relations.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)