A rocket attack targets the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, causing minor damage but no casualties

FILE - The U.S. Embassy is seen from across the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 3, 2020. A rocket attack at the sprawling U.S. embassy in Baghdad Friday Dec. 8, 2023 caused minor material damage but no casualties, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)
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BY QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA

Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — A rocket attack on the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Baghdad caused minor damage but no casualties Friday morning, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

The attack was the first on the embassy located in the heavily fortified Green Zone of Iraq’s capital to be confirmed since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. The Green Zone houses Iraqi government buildings and foreign embassies on the west bank of the Tigris River.

Friday’s assault was followed by drone and multi-rocket attacks, including on al-Asad air base in Iraq and three troop locations in Syria, also with no casualties, U.S. officials said.

Iran-backed militias in Iraq have claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks that targeted bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since Israel declared war on Hamas two months ago. The U.S. military says 78 attacks have been carried out against U.S. facilities over the past weeks, of which 43 were in Iraq and 41 in Syria.

An Iraqi security official said 14 Katyusha rockets were fired Friday, of which some struck near one of the U.S. Embassy’s gates while others fell in the river.

A U.S. military official said a multi-rocket attack was launched at American and coalition forces in the vicinity of the embassy complex and the Union III base, which houses offices of the U.S.-led coalition. The official added that no casualties and no damage to infrastructure were reported.

An embassy spokesperson said the U.S. Embassy was attacked by two salvos of rockets at about 4:15 a.m. (0215 GMT).

“Assessments are ongoing, but there are no reported casualties on the embassy compound,” the official said, adding that no specific group had claimed responsibility for firing the rockets as of Friday morning. But early indications pointed to Iran-aligned militias.

“We again call on the government of Iraq, as we have done on many occasions, to do all in its power to protect diplomatic and Coalition partner personnel and facilities,” the official said. “We reiterate that we reserve the right to self-defense and to protect our personnel anywhere in the world.”

The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said in a statement that “targeting diplomatic missions is something that cannot be justified.” He called the attack an “insult to Iraq, its stability and security,” and promised to “pursue the perpetratrors of the attack … and bring them to justice.”

Sudani came to power with the support of a coalition of Iran-backed parties. But he also wants continued good relations with the U.S. and has backed the ongoing presence of American troops in his country.

The attacks later Friday included a drone assault at Patrol Base Shaddadi and multi-rocket attacks on Rumalyn Landing Zone and Mission Support Site Euphrates, all in Syria, and a drone and multi-rocket attack on al-Asad in Iraq, said U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary reports. They said there was no damage to the bases.

While no group claimed responsibility for the embassy assault, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias, issued statements claiming separate attacks Friday on the al-Asad airbase in western Iraq, which is used by U.S. forces, and on a base located at the Conoco gas field in eastern Syria.

There are roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq and around 900 others in eastern Syria, on missions against the Islamic State group. In both countries, Iran has militias loyal to Tehran.

In response to attacks against American troops, the U.S. has retaliated with airstrikes three times in Syria since Oct. 17, targeting weapons depots and other facilities linked directly to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and the militias. The U.S. also struck multiple sites in Iraq late last month after a militia group for the first time fired short-range ballistic missiles at U.S. forces at al Asad airbase.