Nearly 24 hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing American and other coalition forces, two rockets crashed late Wednesday into the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, the high-security enclave where foreign embassies including the US mission are based.
Just before midnight, according to AFP, two loud blasts were heard followed by the wailing security sirens of the Green Zone.
The strikes are said to be in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last week.
Muhandis had been the deputy head of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a web of armed groups incorporated into the Iraqi state but which also have close ties to Tehran.
Soon after Iran fired ballistic missile strikes against the US-led coalition in Iraq, pro-Iran factions in Iraq on Wednesday had said that it is now their turn for an Iraqi response to the US and will be no less than the size of the Iranian response.
“The initial Iranian response to the assassination of the martyred commander [Maj. Gen. Qassem] Soleimani has happened. Now it is time for the initial response to the assassination of the martyred [Iraqi] commander [Abu Mahdi] Muhandis. And because Iraqis are brave and zealous, their response will not be any less than that or Iran’s. That is a promise,” Qais al-Khazali, Iran-backed Iraqi militia commander had said.
The United States had accused Hashed groups of being behind a string of rocket attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad and bases hosting American troops across the country.
Tensions between the US and Iran escalated as General Qasem Soleimani was killed along with seven others after Trump ordered an airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the Baghdad International Airport road.
The White House in a statement on Friday had said that at the direction of the President, the US military took a “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad” by killing Qasem Soleimani.