A Katyusha rocket has crashed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone where many foreign embassies are located, causing a loud explosion in the center of the Iraqi capital, but no casualties, Iraqi security services said in a statement.
Alert sirens sounded briefly in Baghdad after the explosion was heard, according to Associated Press reporters on the east side of the Tigris River.
The cause of the explosions is not yet known. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
Iraqi security forces have closed down the Green Zone neighborhood.
A police source told AFP that “initial reports indicate that the rocket was fired from an open field” in southern Baghdad.
All US bases in Iraq have been put on standby amid reports that the rocket has hit an area close to the US embassy.
“A low-grade rocket did land within the International Zone near the US Embassy and the JOC (Joint Operation Center). There were no casualties or significant damage; no US-inhabited facility was impacted,” the US State Department said in reaction to the incident.
”We are in close and continuing contact with senior Iraqi officials regarding this incident and investigating the circumstances. At present there are no claims of responsibility,” it added.
“As noted, there have been no claims of responsibility and no US-inhabited facility was struck. But, we take this incident very seriously. We have made clear over the past two weeks and again underscore that attacks on US personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and will be responded to in a decisive manner,” the State Department said.
It also said the US “hold Iran responsible” if any such attacks are conducted by its allied forces and their elements in Iraq, and “will respond to Iran accordingly.”
Shortly after the rocket blast, US President Donald Trump posted another anti-Iran tweet, claiming that if Tehran wants a war, “that will be the official end of Iran.”
Trump’s hawkish national security advisor John Bolton has also arrived in the White House to discuss the rocket attack, according to media reports.
The Green Zone is one of the world’s most high-security institutional quarters. Located in the center of the Iraqi capital, it houses parliament, the prime minister’s office, the presidency, other key institutions, top officials’ homes and embassies.
The American embassy in Baghdad — the world’s largest — lies within the fortified neighborhood, also known as the International Zone, which is surrounded by concrete walls.
The US had on Wednesday evacuated its non-essential government employees from Baghdad and Erbil, following Washington’s repeated expressions of concern about so-called threats in the Arab country posed by “Iran-backed forces”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced trip to Iraq lastTuesday, pressing Iraqi leaders about what he alleged were the increased dangers to Americans there.
A Katyusha rocket has landed in the vicinity of the US embassy in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, according to Al Arabiya’s correspondent.
“A Katyusha rocket fell in the middle of the Green Zone without causing any losses, details to come later,” the Iraqi military said in a statement.
The statement added that the rocket was fired from the al-Ghadeer area in Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces have closed the area leading to the Green Zone, while a combing operation is underway.
The apparent attack comes amid heightened tensions across the Gulf region, after the United States ordered non-essential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq.
[Lead photo is from a previous attack – Arch]