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19 Dec, 2021 00:53

US air defenses respond to rockets targeting Baghdad’s Green Zone

US air defenses respond to rockets targeting Baghdad’s Green Zone

Several rockets hit Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone hosting the US-led military coalition's facilities as well as the US embassy. One rocket was shot down by the US-installed defense systems.

Two rockets were launched towards the Green Zone on Sunday morning local time, Iraqi security forces have confirmed.

"The Green Zone in Baghdad was the target of two Katyusha rockets. The first was shot down in the air by C-RAM defence batteries, the second fell in a square, damaging two vehicles," they said in a statement as reported by AFP.

Footage posted on social media purportedly shows the moment one of the projectiles was intercepted by the air defense systems, scrambled to respond to the threat.

One of the two rockets reportedly landed merely 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the US embassy, AFP reported, citing security sources.

The new rocket attack comes as the December 31 deadline for US combat troops to withdraw from the country inches closer. Last month, Baghdad denied reports that Western troops would be allowed to stay beyond that date, dismissing speculation of the deadline extension as “inaccurate”

Upon the end of the combat mission, the remaining coalition forces will switch to training, advising, and assisting Iraqi troops.

While the change in the US-led coalition’s role in the country has been billed as a withdrawal, Reuters reported last week, citing security officials, that the formal conclusion of the mission will make “little difference” on the number of US troops stationed in Iraq.

Last week, the top US commander for the Middle East, Marine General Frank McKenzie, revealed that the Pentagon does not plan to put a lid on its military operations in Iraq, saying that US forces will provide air support for the Iraqi troops taking on the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants.

McKenzie predicted that Washington’s intention to keep the 2,500 troops it currently has in Iraq on the ground is likely to trigger a response from “Iran-backed militias” as the deadline looms.

He insisted, however, that the US won’t budge. “They actually want all U.S. forces to leave, and all U.S. forces are not going to leave.”