Iraqi forces thwart attack aiming for Camp Taji, but child injured by rocket fired toward US Embassy

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi military said Sunday that a rocket aimed at Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, home of the U.S. Embassy, struck a residential house and injured a child.

Iraqi officials said the embassy’s recently installed C-RAM air defense system may have attempted to intercept the rocket as the system was operational late Saturday. A recent spate of rocket attacks have struck close to the U.S. Embassy and targeted American troops in Iraqi bases. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The rocket was launched late Saturday from the Ali Al-Saleh area of Baghdad and landed next to a house close to a local TV channel, the military statement said. A child suffered head injuries and the house was damaged.

Iraqi security forces say they also thwarted another attack north of Baghdad in the Umm al-Azam area aiming to hit Camp Taji, a training base used by U.S.-led coalition forces.

In March, two Americans and one British soldier were killed following a barrage of rockets on Camp Taji.

Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, center, visits airmen assigned to the 332 Air Expeditionary Wing, Jan. 24, 2020, at an undisclosed location. (Staff Sgt. Alexandria Brun/Air Force)

The latest uptick in attacks comes shortly before Iraq embarks on strategic talks with the U.S. in which the presence of American forces in the country is expected to top the agenda.

The U.S. has criticized Iraq’s federal government for being unable to reign in Iran-backed militia groups it believes are orchestrating the attacks. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has pledged to protect American installations from attacks, U.S. officials said.

Iraqi security forces last week raided the headquarters of the powerful Iran-backed paramilitary Kataib Hezbollah and detained 14 men suspected of being responsible for rocket attacks targeting the Green Zone. Thirteen detainees were later released and one remains in custody.

Motorists pass by a Popular Mobilization poster in Baghdad on June 26, 2020. Iraqi security forces arrested over a dozen men suspected of a spate of rocket attacks against the U.S. (Hadi Mizban/AP)

The move drew praise from the U.S. but condemnation from Iran-backed political factions in Iraq.

The U.S. Embassy began testing the new air defense system late Saturday, the Iraqi officials said. It drew condemnation from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hassan al-Kaabi, who called on the government to take action against the “illegal” move which would “provoke the Iraqi people,” according to a government statement.

Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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