In Baghdad, five Iraqi civilians were killed and two others were severely wounded after a Katyusha rocket struck a residence on Monday, September 28th, destroying the family home upon impact. The rocket appears to have been launched from the al-Jihad neighbourhood of Baghdad and thought to have originally targeted the Baghdad International Airport. These five civilians— two women and three children—are among the first Iraqi civilian deaths despite frequent violence in the country. An Iraqi Military statement describes the attack as a “cowardly crime” perpetrated by “criminal gangs” with the sole aim of creating chaos and terrorizing people. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has ordered the arrest of the perpetrators, calling them “violent gangs” who will no longer “tamper with security.”
No group has taken responsibility so far for Monday’s attack, but Iraqi intelligence suggests a small group of Iran-backed armed factions orchestrated the event. These Iraqi Shi fighters have been actively targeting United States interests. Attacks have become all too frequent, with rockets and roadside bombs routinely targeting the U.S. embassy, American troops located in various bases, and American and other foreign allies’ convoys carrying equipment throughout Baghdad. Within the last two weeks, for example, a Katyusha rocket landed in the heavily fortified Green Zone, striking a residential building located nearby several foreign embassies. The attack came only a day after a British convoy was targeted on a major city highway. Monday marks the first time in months that an attack resulted in civilian causalities. However, the frequency and strike pattern of the incidents suggested that this was only a matter of time. This development is cause for concern, as it could mark a change from a vicious diplomatic game to an unpredictable and increasingly violent conflict.
The Trump administration has cautioned that it will shut the United States embassy in Baghdad if the Iraqi government fails to take swift action to stop the recurrent violence by militias and other armed groups on American interests in the country. However, the turmoil following the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and Iranian militia leader Abu Mahdi al- Muhandis has complicated Iraqi efforts to reign in the violence. Given that President al- Kadhimi’s previous trip to the United States for strategic diplomacy only exacerbated the attacks, a peaceful and prompt solution seems improbable. It is clear that an immense crisis is looming, and vigilant monitoring of the situation is necessary as the violence continues.
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