BAGHDAD: A volley of rockets landed near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Sunday, two security sources said, in the latest unclaimed attack on American installations in the country.
Reporters heard loud thuds emanating from the western bank of the Tigris, where the US embassy and most other foreign diplomatic missions are located.
One security source said three Katyusha rockets hit near the high-security compound while another said as many as five struck the area.
Later Iraq’s security forces said in a statement that five rockets hit the high-security Green Zone with no casualties. It did not mention the US embassy.
The rocket fire comes two day after thousands massed in Baghdad in response to a call by populist cleric Moqtada Sadr for a rally to demand the ouster of US troops from Iraq.
America’s military presence has been a hot-button issue in Iraq since a US strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and a top Iraqi commander outside Baghdad airport on January 3.
Around 5,200 US troops are in Iraq to lead a global coalition fighting the militant Islamic State group, but Iraq said the strike against Soleimani violated that mandate.
Sunday’s attack was the latest in a series of rocket fire this month targeting the Green Zone,where the Iraqi parliament is also located.
Parliament earlier this month urged the departure of US troops from Iraq, which has been gripped by anti-government protests since October.
Protesters keep up rallies
Iraqi security forces shot live rounds to clear protests in Baghdad and the south for a second day on Sunday, but thousands of determined students flooded the streets to keep up their movement.
Violence has resurged in the capital and Shia-majority south this week, with more than 15 people killed as anti-government activists ramped up their road closures and sit-ins while security forces sought to snuff out the campaign.
Thousands of students rallied on Sunday, waving Iraqi flags and holding up two fingers in a victory sign.
“Only for you, Iraq!” read a sign held by a young protester in Karbala, hinting at the movement’s insistence on not being affiliated with any political party or outside backer.
In Basra, hundreds of students gathered to condemn the riot police’s dismantling of their main protest camp the previous day, according to a correspondent.
They also led the way in Kut, erecting new tents to replace those taken down the previous day, and in Najaf, blocking off main roads with burning tyres.
In Baghdad, university students marched from a campus in the city centre to the main rally area of Tahrir Square.
Riot police fired live rounds and tear gas at clusters of young protesters in the nearby Khallani and Wathba squares, but protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails to keep them back. At least 17 protesters were wounded, a police source said.
Security forces have stopped short of entering Tahrir Square itself, where many tents have been dismantled but remaining protesters have pledged to stand their ground.
In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security forces on Sunday also fired live rounds to disperse protesters who were angered by authorities pushing them out of roads around their main protest camp in Habbubi Square.
At least 75 protesters suffered bullet wounds and around 100 were impacted by tear gas in brief skirmishes, a medical source said.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020