Multiple rockets aimed at an Iraqi air base just north of the U.S. embassy where American troops are deployed, as well as the heavily militarized Green Zone were launched Saturday evening, according to multiple reports.
At least one rocket struck the Balad airbase where an unspecified number of U.S. troops are housed while another hit near the embassy compound in the Green Zone, U.S. Army Public Affairs spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz confirmed on Twitter.
Dietz said Balad was the only confirmed point of impact, although a second rocket seemed to strike just south of the Tigris river in the Green Zone.
According to a Reuters report, the Iraqi military said Celebration Square, just a few blocks away from the U.S. embassy, was hit.
“Several rockets targeting Celebration Square and the Jadriya area in Baghdad, and the Balad air base in Salahuddin province, with no loss of life. Further details to come,” the statement read.
Images from one of the impact points appeared to show a car hit with shrapnel and a sidewalk that was blown out.
News of the rockets came just hours after it was reported that a senior Iranian military official threatened an attack on some 35 “American targets” in retaliation of the U.S. airstrike at Baghdad International airport that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Senior Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh foreshadowed a possible attack on “vital American targets” located in the Strait of Hormuz.
“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there,” Abuhamzeh said according to a Reuters report, citing Tasnim news agency.
“Vital American targets in the region have been identified by Iran since long time ago … some 35 U.S. targets in the region, as well as Tel Aviv, are within our reach.”
In addition to threatening the U.S. with a possible attack, Abuhamzeh’s remarks that the targets had been previously “identified by Iran” seemed to confirm the State Department’s statement regarding the motivation behind the airstrike.
His comments come after it U.S. defense officials told Fox News that more than 3,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team would be deployed to Kuwait.
Iran’s top “shadow commander,” as Soleimani was known, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. According to the State Department, the airstrike “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the department said. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
Mourners gathering in the streets of Baghdad Saturday for Soleimani’s funeral procession. Dressed in black military fatigues, the mostly male-dominated group carried Iraqi flags and the flags of Iran-backed militias that are fiercely loyal to Soleimani.
They were heard chanting “No, No, America,” and “Death to America, death to Israel.”
The U.S. has since ordered all citizens to leave Iraq and closed its embassy in Baghdad, where Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters staged two days of violent protests earlier this week in which they breached the compound.
There are roughly 5,000 U.S. troops currently deployed to Iraq, and about 60,000 in the region. Some 14,000 have been added since May as the threat from Iran increased, according to the Pentagon.
The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman is currently in the Gulf of Oman. Her strike group is armed with hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles, in addition to the dozens of strike aircraft aboard Truman.