Rocket attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone kills child

In this file photo US soldiers take cover as US Blackhawk helicopters drop troops at a US army military base in Salman Pak, south of Baghdad, on April 15, 2008. (AFP)
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Updated 18 November 2020

Rocket attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone kills child

  • The officials said the rockets hit inside the Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government and home to foreign embassies

BAGHDAD: Rockets struck Iraq's capital Tuesday with four landing inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, Iraq’s military said, killing a child and wounding at least five people, signaling an end to an informal truce announced by Iran-backed militias in October.
Two Iraqi security officials said one of the rockets that hit the Green Zone struck close to Iraq's National Security Service, just 600 meters from the American Embassy. Some of the rockets were intercepted by the C-RAM air defense system installed by the U.S. earlier this year, they said.
Iraq's military said three rockets landed outside the Green Zone, one hitting close to Baghdad Medical City hospital, one at the gate of a public park, and a third exploded in the air. One child was killed and five civilians were wounded, the military statement said.
Officials said two Iraqi security forces personnel were also wounded inside the Green Zone. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The military said the incident would not go without “prosecution and accountability.”
US troops invaded Iraq in 2003 and left in 2011 but returned in 2014 after the Islamic State group overran large parts of Iraq.
Frequent attacks targeting the US Embassy and vehicles transporting equipment for U.S. troops have led Washington to threaten to close its Baghdad diplomatic mission and sparked a diplomatic crisis prior to the U.S. presidential election.
The attack comes after a recent announcement by the Pentagon that it would reduce troop levels in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500.
In mid-October, Iran-backed, mostly Shiite, militia groups said they would temporarily halt attacks targeting the American presence in Iraq, including the embassy. That came with the condition that U.S.-led coalition troops withdraw from the country in line with a non-binding resolution passed in the Iraqi Parliament in January.
The resolution was passed by mostly Shiite lawmakers and urged the government to take action and expel US-led coalition troops from the country.
The resolution followed the Washington-directed airstrike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, outside Baghdad airport.
US officials, supportive of withdrawals in principle, have insisted they take place based on a scheduled timeline. Most Iraqi government officials agree with a gradual drawdown and face pressure from Iran-aligned groups who prefer an immediate exit.
A planned drawdown has been underway in Iraq for months, with coalition troops withdrawing from several Iraqi bases.
Iraqi forces have increasingly been conducting anti-Daesh operations without U.S. assistance, triggering the coalition to begin a scheduled drawdown in March that was conceived late last year. Assistance has become increasingly limited to high-level capabilities that Iraqi security forces lack, such as surveillance and air support.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”