Rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone as foreign militaries pull out troops

The attacks came as the US coalition announced plans to consolidate its presence in Baghdad and al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq.
Sunday 29/03/2020
The US Embassy as seen from across the Tigris River in Baghdad, January 3. (AP)
The US Embassy as seen from across the Tigris River in Baghdad, January 3. (AP)

BAGHDAD - At least two rockets hit inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government and home to the US Embassy, an Iraqi military statement said.

The rockets struck March 26 near the Baghdad Operations Command, which coordinates Iraq’s police and military forces, the statement said. The command centre is a few hundred metres from the US Embassy, which is a regular target of rocket attacks. It was not immediately known if there were casualties.

The statement said the rockets were fired from al-Nahda area of Baghdad.

It was the first attack on the Green Zone since three rockets landed near the US Embassy March 17. That attack was the fourth to target US interests in Iraq in a week following assaults on the Basmaya training camp and two attacks on Camp Taji. Both bases are near Baghdad.

The first attack on Camp Taji killed three coalition troops, including two Americans. That prompted US air strikes against what US officials said were weapons facilities belonging to Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Iraqi militia group believed responsible for the attack.

Iraq’s military said the air strikes killed five security force members and a civilian, while wounding five fighters from the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella organisation including an array of Iraqi militias, including some Iran-backed groups.

Iran-backed Iraqi militias vowed revenge for the attacks.

The attacks came as the US coalition announced plans to consolidate its presence in Baghdad and al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq. The plan had been in the works since late last year, a senior coalition military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Troops have pulled out from al-Qaim, on the border with Syria.

France, which has around 200 military personnel working in Iraq either as trainers or in the headquarters of coalition forces in Baghdad, said March 25 it would withdraw its troops because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In coordination with the Iraqi government, the coalition has decided to adjust its deployments in Iraq and provisionally suspend training activities,” said an official French Defence Ministry statement.

The British Defence Ministry previously said some of its troops would be ordered home, citing a “reduced requirement for training” Iraqi security forces.

The Czech military said March 24 it pulled 30 soldiers from Iraq over concerns about security and the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The troops were part of Operation Inherent Resolve or NATO Mission Iraq, as well as chemical training corps and military police.

Iraq’s military had halted all training in early March to minimise the risk of coronavirus spreading among its forces.

(News agencies) 

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