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3 mortar shells crash into Baghdad’s U.S. Embassy compound, wounding one

The U.S. Embassy compound seen in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad on Dec. 31. (Ahmed Jalil/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

BAGHDAD — A suspected militia attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad wounded one person late Sunday, officials said, underscoring the growing risks to personnel there amid calls for an end to the American military presence.

Late-night rocket or mortar attacks on Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and embassies, have become commonplace as the Trump administration increases financial and political pressure on Iran, which backs a number of militias in Iraq.

The strike Sunday marked a rare direct hit inside the U.S. Embassy’s heavily fortified compound and was the first in years to apparently wound any personnel inside the facility. One mortar shell hit the dining area, while two others landed close by, officials said.

The identity of the wounded individual was not made public Monday, but U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the person suffered an injury that was not life-threatening.

Speaking to reporters after a visit to Cairo, Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie Jr., head of U.S. Central Command, said that the attack injured one person but that the person has since “returned to duty.” Initial reports suggested that the person was a U.S. contractor.

The mortar attack also caused a fire that was put out, McKenzie said.

Maj. John Rigsbee, a U.S. military spokesman, said all Defense Department personnel in the compound have been accounted for.

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Sunday’s assault came almost exactly a month after a similar attack killed an American contractor on a military base in northern Iraq, sparking an intense round of brinkmanship that pushed the United States and Iran to the edge of open conflict.

In late December, after the United States launched retaliatory airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah, its supporters responded with a brief siege of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Days later, President Trump ordered a drone strike that killed one of Iran’s top military commanders as he arrived in Baghdad. Tehran hit back with waves of ballistic missiles on a section of Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base housing U.S. troops. At least 34 U.S. service members have since been treated for traumatic brain injuries.

Although tensions have ebbed, Sunday’s attack highlighted the persistent threat to U.S. diplomatic and military facilities in Iraq.

The Iraqi prime minister is under growing pressure to expel foreign troops, and rocket attacks on the Green Zone have become a weekly occurrence. No group has asserted responsibility for the Sunday strike or any before it. Kataib Hezbollah denied involvement. Militiamen from other groups also publicly condemned the attack.

In a statement, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi described it as a “hostile” act.

“While condemning this illegal act, we instructed our security forces to arrest the attackers and bring them to justice,” he said.

Analysts and Western officials believe that Abdul Mahdi has limited control over Iraq’s constellation of militias, particularly those backed or influenced by Iran.

Several have been involved in a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters in Iraq. Although the prime minister has repeatedly vowed to punish those responsible for the worst violations, no senior figures have faced consequences.

Mustafa Salim in Baghdad, Missy Ryan aboard a military aircraft and John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.

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