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Rockets strike Baghdad’s Green Zone after U.S. announces Iraq troop drawdown

In this 2018 photo, Iraqi security forces watch over a checkpoint leading to the Green Zone in Baghdad. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

BAGHDAD — At least four rockets struck Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone late Tuesday, shortly after the United States announced a drawdown of troops from Iraq.

The barrage of rocket fire appeared to have been met with a U.S. missile defense system: As the rockets were launched, booms echoed through Baghdad and streaks of red light crossed the sky.

The Iraqi military said four rockets had landed in the Green Zone, a sprawl of embassy buildings located in the center of the Iraqi capital. Three more landed outside the area, killing a young child and wounding five Iraqi civilians, the army said in a statement.

The rocket attack appeared to mark the end of a unilateral truce declared in October by Iran-backed militias operating in Iraq.

Since late 2019, those armed groups have repeatedly targeted facilities and personnel linked to Western interests in Iraq. Those attacks have resulted in the deaths of six Iraqis, three U.S. service members and one Briton. One attack nearly brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war in January.

[Militia attacks on Americans in Iraq are becoming more audacious]

A Telegram channel linked to militias said Tuesday that the Ashab al-Kahaf group had fired six rockets on the area. Another post showed the face of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi militia leader killed alongside Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in a Jan. 3 drone strike ordered by President Trump that pushed the United States and Iran into open hostilities on Iraqi soil.

Less than an hour before, acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller said that the U.S. military would pull more troops from Iraq, decreasing the number to 2,500 by Jan. 15, days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The Trump administration has also threatened to withdraw all personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, citing security concerns, a move that critics say would only deepen Iranian influence in Iraq. On Monday, another Iran-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah, shared a photograph on social media that it said had been taken inside a room used for surveillance inside the U.S. Embassy. American officials did not immediately comment on its veracity.

This is a developing story, more to follow.

Mustafa Salim in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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