Iraq says some US embassy attackers linked to official security forces

Iraq's official security forces contain groups linked to Iran

The US embassy in Baghdad came under rocket fire. AP
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Some of those involved in an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad are linked to the security forces, an Iraqi government spokesman said on Thursday.

Rockets and mortar bombs landed inside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, the site of government offices and foreign embassies, including the US embassy, at dawn last Friday.

Some of the rockets hit the embassy compound, while several others struck the nearby headquarters of the Iraqi National Security Service, security officials said.

No casualties were reported.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, condemned the attacks and ordered an investigation.

“After intensive technical and intelligence efforts, our security forces have identified the perpetrators,” said Maj Gen Yahya Rasool, military representative for the prime minister.

“Unfortunately, the initial information indicated that some of them are affiliated to some security agencies,” he said, without specifying which agencies.

Security forces have arrested “some of them and efforts are under way to reach all those involved in this assault and justice will be served in accordance with the law”, he said.

An escalation in tensions between Shiite militias, backed by Iran, and US forces began after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on October 7. Some of the militias are part of a state-linked paramilitary organisation, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

Maj Gen Rasool's statement reaffirmed the government's denunciation of the attack as an “assault on Iraq’s security and sovereignty”.

“Staying silent and overlooking such attacks is not permissible as they pose a serious threat to the country’s security and stability,” it said.

“They harm Iraq’s reputation and dignity and cast doubt on its credibility as a sovereign state capable of fulfilling its international obligations in ensuring the safety of its citizens and residents, especially the diplomatic missions,” it added.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack last Friday, but previous attacks against US forces have been carried out by Iran-aligned militias operating under the banner of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a call to Mr Al Sudani, accused Iran-aligned armed groups Kataeb Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah Al Nujaba of carrying out the attacks.

“The United States reserves the right to respond decisively against those groups,” Mr Austin said, according to a Pentagon statement summarising a phone call with Mr Al Sudani.

The escalation between Iran-backed Shiite militants and US forces is due to Washington's support of Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip, putting the government in a difficult position.

Since then, US forces in Iraq and Syria as part of the global anti-ISIS coalition, have been attacked at least 84 times, according to the Pentagon. The US has responded with several strikes that have killed at least 15 militants in Iraq and about seven in Syria.

The US has 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in neighbouring Syria to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of ISIS, which in 2014 seized vast areas of both countries but was later defeated.

Updated: December 14, 2023, 12:31 PM