3 mortars hit US Embassy compound in Baghdad, one injury reported

This is the first time the U.S. Embassy compound has been hit directly in years.

January 27, 2020, 5:46 PM

The U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad was hit by mortar fire on Sunday, according to the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, injuring at least one person.

This is the first time the compound has been hit directly and U.S. personnel injured there in years and comes just weeks after pro-Iranian militia members and their supporters assaulted the compound in Iraq.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi Monday to express outrage over the attack, and Mahdi committed to "strengthening the procedures of the Iraqi forces responsible for protecting" the U.S. embassy, according to his office.

Rocket attacks on the Green Zone are very common. Last week three rockets were fired into Baghdad's Green Zone, the heavily fortified area of the capital that houses the embassy, government buildings and U.S. service members. Iraqi officials said Monday that there were no injuries from that attack.

A general view of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 3, 2020.
Ameer Al Mohmmedaw/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Two U.S. officials told ABC News Sunday that the dining hall was hit directly in the attack. After the initial assessment, those officials said five Katyusha rockets were used, but Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, U.S. Central Command chief, told reporters Monday it was mortar fire.

Although no one was killed, there was one injury, according to McKenzie and State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. That individual is already back at work, according to McKenzie.

Pompeo blamed the attack on "Iran's armed groups" in Iraq and called on Mahdi's government to rein in the Shiite militia groups that are supposed to be under government control.

"We view last night's attack on the Embassy as an attempt to distract Iraqi and international attention away from the brutal suppression of peaceful Iraqi protesters by Iran and its proxies," Ortagus said in the U.S. readout of Pompeo and Mahdi's call.

Iraqi anti-government protesters were attacked Saturday by Iraqi security forces who tried to clear their camps in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, killing at least four, according to the Associated Press. Huge crowds of demonstrators, however, returned on Sunday -- showing fierce resolve in the months-long protests that have called for changes to the political system and railed against corruption and a lack of public services and opportunities.

Over 600 protesters have been killed since the unrest began in October, according to Amnesty International.

But there have also been demonstrations against the U.S., especially after the airstrikes that killed members of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Iran's top general Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil.

After initially saying the U.S. would not negotiate a troop withdrawal, the Trump administration has struck a more amicable tone, with special envoy for defeating the Islamic State James Jeffrey saying on Thursday, "We don't think we should withdraw. However, at the end of the day, this is obviously an Iraqi decision."

In her statement on Monday, Ortagus said that Pompeo had reaffirmed "our willingness to discuss the scope of our forces in Iraq over time."

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