US embassy in Baghdad comes under rocket fire

Iraqi President Barham Salih decried the attack, which came after US Secretary of State Blinken congratulated Iraqi Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi on his recent re-election

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The US embassy in Baghdad came under rocket fire on Thursday shortly after Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Mohammed Al Halbousi to congratulate him on his re-election as speaker of the Iraqi Parliament.

The US embassy's Twitter account noted that the “compound was attacked this evening by terrorist groups attempting to undermine Iraq’s security, sovereignty and international relations".

“We have long said that theses sorts of reprehensible attacks are an assault not just on diplomatic facilities, but on the sovereignty of Iraq itself,” the embassy wrote.

Two of the three rockets were intercepted while a third landed on a school in the Green Zone near the US embassy, a security official said.

The security official added that while no deaths were reported, the attack injured a woman and a child.

The rockets were reportedly fired from the southern district of Dora.

Iraqi President Barham Salih condemned the attack and called for "unity to stand firm against these crimes".

"Targeting diplomatic missions and endangering the civilians is a criminal and terrorist act and affects Iraq's interests and international reputation," Mr Salih said in a statement on Twitter.

He said the attacks were meant to delay the process of forming the new government following last year's elections.

The UN Special mission to Iraq, known as Unami, reinforced the president's statement, saying “targeting embassies, causing injury among Iraqi civilians are callous attempts to destabilise the country”.

It added that “peace and security are prerequisites to tackle urgent domestic priorities and reaffirm Iraqi sovereignty.”

The attacks took place following Mr Blinken’s congratulatory call to Mr Al Halbousi.

“Secretary Blinken congratulated the speaker on his re-election and expressed appreciation for the role that the [Council of Representatives] plays in Iraq’s democratic process and its work to uphold Iraq’s national sovereignty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a readout of the call.

“The secretary discussed the important work ahead, including the formation of a new government that will address the urgent challenges facing Iraq.”

Iraq’s elections last year struck a significant political blow to Iran-aligned parties, which lost several seats in Parliament as the coalition led by Shiite nationalist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr made several gains.

US President Joe Biden responded to prior repeated attacks on diplomatic facilities and bases housing American troops with a series of strikes on Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria last year.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that the US has communicated indirectly with the Iranian government on the seriousness of the situation.

"We have made it very clear in other channels to the Iranians how seriously we're taking this,” Mr Kirby said.

The attacks, he added, are “obviously meant to cause harm, if not death, to our people".

Updated: January 13, 2022, 9:31 PM
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