A rocket was fired towards the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday night, which reportedly fell short of its target and landed near a residential home and injured a child. Like most attacks on US forces in Iraq, it was blamed on Kataib Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia supported by Iran that is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU), an Iraqi state-sponsored group of about 40 mostly Shi’ite militias.
The Iraqi government arrested Fourteen Kataib Hezbollah members suspected of plotting an attack on US personnel in late June to appease Washington, who has demanded Iraq be tougher on the group. Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa Khadimi had to quickly release all of the militia members due to political pressure. Kataib Hezbollah denies being responsible for any attacks on US forces. Some members spoke with Al Jazeera about the arrest.
“If they have evidence for this allegation they can show it to the people, but here there are no missiles and launching pads,” an anonymous Kataib Hezbollah member told Al Jazeera. The group does not trust Prime Minister Khadimi, and referred to him as an “agent of the Americans.”
Kataib Hezbollah has accused Khadimi of being complicit in the US killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The January drone strike that killed Soleimani also killed Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, commander of the PMU. The series of events leading up to the assassination was sparked by a rocket attack that killed a US contractor in Kirkuk, which the US blamed on Kataib Hezbollah, although no evidence was ever brought forward to confirm Washington’s claim and Iraqi intelligence has said the attack could have been carried out by ISIS.
After a rocket attack on Camp Taji in Iraq killed two US soldiers and one British soldier in March, a new group called the League of Revolutionaries emerged and took credit for the strike. The League also warned of future attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the rocket that fell on Saturday night was aimed. Many groups in Iraq want US occupation forces to leave the country, including Iraq’s parliament.
The attack on the Green Zone came just hours after the US was testing its new rocket defense system, known as the C-RAM. Testing the new system drew condemnation from Iraq’s parliament. Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Hassan al-Kaabi said the tests were “provocative” and “unacceptable,” since they could put nearby residential areas in danger. It is not yet clear if the system was used to deter Saturday night’s rocket attack.