News World Civilian injured in attack on US embassy in Baghdad
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Civilian injured in attack on US embassy in Baghdad

There has been a night-time mortar attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, which started a fire and injured one civilian inside the embassy. Photo: Getty
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A senior US commander says mortars were used in an attack on the American embassy in Baghdad that injured one person and caused some material damage the previous night, not Katyusha rockets as was initially reported by staffers and a statement from the military.

General Frank McKenzie, a senior US commander for the Middle East, told reporters travelling with him that the mortar attack started a fire that was put out. He said no US military members were injured, but that one US national received a minor injury but has returned to work.

The two staff members of the US Embassy in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media, said initially it had been rockets that slammed into a restaurant inside the American compound.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi received a phone call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which they condemned the embassy attack and discussed measures to strengthen Iraqi forces responsible for protecting diplomatic missions and procedures to prevent similar attack, according to a statement from the premier’s office.

The US Embassy is within the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, and has been a flashpoint amid wider regional tensions between the US and Iran, which have played out inside Iraq in recent weeks. Iraqi supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the embassy compound on December 31, smashing the main door and setting fire to the reception area.

Violence between Iraqi security forces and anti-government protesters also continued to seethe overnight, with one protester shot dead in a violent crackdown in the country’s south. Unrest was also ongoing in the capital, with new clashes erupting Monday near the central Khilani and Wathba squares, where security forces fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse crowds.

Embassies from sixteen Western countries, including the US, issued a joint statement condemning the “excessive and lethal use of force” by Iraqi security forces and armed groups over the past three days against “peaceful protesters, including in Baghdad, Nasiriyah and Basra.”

The statement called on the government to investigate all reported deaths of protesters since October 1, when the unrest began.

At least 22 protesters were wounded, five due to live fire, security and medical officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Security forces also chased after demonstrators and beat them.

A member of the security forces overpowered a female anti-government protester, dragged her by the hair and pinned her down outside Baghdad’s municipality building. The incident, captured by an Associated Press photographer, was a rare occurrence in the largely male-dominated front-lines of the demonstrations.

The security personnel conducted a search of the female protester and tore off a protective face mask she was wearing as a witness threw stones.

Iraq has been roiled by over four months of demonstrations over government corruption, high unemployment and Iranian influence in Iraqi politics. Security forces have killed at least 500 protesters. The country is also facing a political clash over naming the next prime minister, after Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi resigned.

An initial military statement said at least five Katyusha rockets had landed inside the Green Zone late Sunday. It was the third attack targeting the US Embassy this month, and the perpetrators were not immediately known. Perpetrators had used Katyusha rockets in previous attacks and caused no injuries.

-AP