Rocket lands near Baghdad’s Green Zone, US helicopters scrambled – reports
At least one rocket was fired in the vicinity of the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where the American Embassy is located, according to local reports. Military aircraft were spotted hovering in the area shortly after.
The explosion rocked the Iraqi capital early on Friday morning local time, according to Al-Arabiya, with some reports stating a “massive” number of armed American helicopters were spotted circling over the area afterward.
— Eva J. Koulouriotis – إيفا كولوريوتي (@evacool_) March 27, 2020
The incident comes just a day after another rocket shelling targeting the Green Zone triggered an evacuation of American personnel from the US Embassy, with two projectiles landing near the Baghdad Operations Command, which coordinates the country’s security forces.
The rapidly growing coronavirus pandemic has prompted an exodus of foreign troops stationed in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition, with the United Kingdom announcing last week that only “key military personnel” would remain in the country. The UK was followed by France, that removed 100 soldiers on Wednesday. While the US has yet to withdraw any of its troops, the virus has prompted a “repositioning” of American forces, who were consolidated in safer areas.
Iraqi forces, meanwhile, have also suspended training operations due to the illness.
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Washington has pinned similar attacks on the Green Zone and US bases elsewhere in Iraq on Kataib Hezbollah, a militia group, which the US considers a proxy of Tehran, though it has produced little evidence to support the accusations. A rocket attack on the base housing US troops near Kirkuk late last year culminated in a US assassination strike on the militia’s commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as Iranian Quds Force general Qassem Soleimani. The general’s murder has provoked a huge backlash in both Iran and Iraq, since Baghdad was unaware of the raid, with the Iraqi parliament voting to expell the US troops out of the country in the wake of the strike.
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