World Middle East 05 Jan 2020 Missiles hit Iraq ba ...

Missiles hit Iraq base housing US troops

AFP
Published Jan 5, 2020, 12:15 am IST
Updated Jan 5, 2020, 12:15 am IST
A day after deadly hit, ‘death to America’ chants return to the Middle East; tensions spiral as US increases troop deployment in Iraq
 An Iraqi woman attends the funeral of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani (portrait) and nine others in Baghdad on January 4, 2020. Thousands of Iraqis chanting "Death to America" joined the funeral procession for Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, both killed in a US air strike. (AFP)
  An Iraqi woman attends the funeral of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani (portrait) and nine others in Baghdad on January 4, 2020. Thousands of Iraqis chanting "Death to America" joined the funeral procession for Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, both killed in a US air strike. (AFP)

Baghdad:  Two mortar rounds hit the Iraqi capital's Green Zone Saturday and two rockets slammed into a base housing US troops, security sources said, a day after a deadly American strike.

The precision drone strike outside the Baghdad airport on Friday killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, top Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and a clutch of other Iranian and Iraqi figures.

 

In Baghdad, mortar rounds on Saturday evening hit the Green Zone, the high-security enclave where the US embassy is based, security sources said.

The Iraqi military said one projectile hit inside the zone, while another landed close to the enclave.

Sirens rang out at the US compound, sources there told AFP.

A pair of Katyusha rockets then hit the Balad airbase north of Baghdad, where American troops are based, security sources and the Iraqi military said.

Security sources there reported blaring sirens and said surveillance drones were sent above the base to locate the source of the rockets.

 

The US embassy in Baghdad as well as the 5,200 American troops stationed across the country have faced a spate of rocket attacks in recent months that Washington has blamed on Iran and its allies in Iraq.

Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of Iraqis, many chanting "Death to America", mourned a top Iranian commander and others killed in a US drone attack that sparked fears of a regional proxy war between Washington and Tehran.

The killing of Iran's Major General Qasem Soleimani on Friday was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States, which pledged to send thousands more troops to the region.

 

A furious Iran has vowed revenge for the killing of Soleimani, the chief architect of its military operations across the Middle East.

"The response for a military action is a military action," Iranian ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi told CNN, calling the strike an "act of war".

"By whom, by when, where? That is for the future to witness."

Iraqis worry the US strike could unleash a new wave of destabilisation for Iraq, which only two years ago announced it had defeated the Islamic State group.

 

Amid the tensions, the Pentagon said up to 3,500 additional US troops would be dispatched to Iraq's neighbour Kuwait, to boost some 14,000 reinforcements already deployed to the region last year.  About 5,200 US troops are stationed across Iraq to help fight IS.

As a result of the tensions, NATO said it was suspending its training activities in Iraq and a US defence official told AFP that American-led coalition forces would "limit" operations.

"Our first priority is protecting coalition personnel," the official said, adding that the main focus of surveillance had shifted from IS to watching for incoming rocket attacks.

 

US citizens were meanwhile urged to leave Iraq immediately and American staff were evacuated from oil fields in the south.

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