The United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq is under attack , being hit by numerous barrages of heavy Mortar fire.
This is a developing story as of 1:51 PM eastern US time. Live Updates to appear below.
Sirens heard across Green Zone, Baghdad. Numerous blasts heard.
Arab media beginning to report Katyusha rockets hitting the vicinity of the Green Zone in Baghdad.
Eyewitnesses: Falling shells and air raid sirens sounding in the vicinity of the US Embassy in Baghdad
U.S. Marines not only defending Embassy, but deploying with helicopters and HumVee’s to CAPTURE attackers. “Any proof of Iranian Involvement means immediate war.”
2:04 PM EDT — Iraqi security forces have closed the green zone and are now combing the area
Mortars reportedly fired in the Green Zone of Baghdad which mostly has foreign embassies and government buildings. Blasts heard around the US embassy.
US two days ago had asked non-emergency staff to leave Iraq and advised US Citizens to avoid travel.
2:07 PM EDT — Iran Militia publicly threatening to Kidnap and Kill USA citizens in Iraq.
CONFIRMATION THAT US EMBASSY WAS TARGET OF ATTACK
BAGHDAD (AP) — A rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone Sunday night, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy, an Iraqi military spokesman said.
The apparent attack, which Iraq’s state-run news agency said did not cause any casualties, came amid heightened tensions across the Persian Gulf, after the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region earlier this month to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran. The U.S. also has ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq.
It was the first such attack since September, when three mortar shells landed in an abandoned lot inside the Green Zone.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department or the US Embassy in Iraq on Sunday’s attack.
Associated Press reporters on the east side of the Tigris River, opposite the Green Zone, heard an explosion, after which alert sirens sounded briefly in Baghdad.
Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul told The Associated Press that a Katyusha rocket fell near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy. He said the military is investigating the cause but that the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad. The area is home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.
Shortly afterward the rocket launcher was discovered by security forces in the eastern neighborhood of Wihda, according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The official also said the roads leading to the Green Zone were closed briefly for security reasons before they were reopened as normal.
Iraq’s state-run news agency said a Katyusha rocket crashed inside the Green Zone without causing any casualties.
As tensions escalate between the US and Iran, there have been concerns that Baghdad could once again get caught in the middle , just as it is on the path to recovery. The country hosts more than 5,000 US troops, and is home to powerful Iranian-backed militias, some of whom want those US forces to leave.
American forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of Iraq to help battle the Islamic State group after it seized vast areas in the north and west of the country, including Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. A U.S.-led coalition provided crucial air support as Iraqi forces regrouped and drove IS out in a costly three-year campaign. Iranian-backed militias fought alongside U.S.-backed Iraqi troops against IS, gaining outsized influence and power.
Now, amid an escalating conflict between the U.S. and Iran, Iraq is once again vulnerable to becoming caught up in the power play. An attack targeting U.S. interests in Iraq would be detrimental to the country’s recent efforts at recovering and reclaiming its status in the Arab world.
On May 8, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a previously unannounced trip to the Iraqi capital following the abrupt cancellation of a visit to Germany, and told Iraqi intelligence that the United States had been picking up intelligence that Iran is threatening American interests in the Middle East, although he offered no details according to two Iraqi officials.
A few days later, as U.S.-Iranian tensions continued to rise, the State Department ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country.