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Pompeo slams Iran-backed militias after latest rocket attack

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held Iran-backed groups responsible for “flagrantly and recklessly”  targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad in a rocket attack on Sunday and said they must “cease their destabilizing actions.”

“Iran-backed militias once again flagrantly and recklessly attacked in Baghdad, wounding Iraqi civilians,” Pompeo said in a tweet on Monday.

“The people of Iraq deserve to have these attackers prosecuted. These violent and corrupt criminals must cease their destabilizing actions,” he added.

One Iraqi soldier was wounded on Sunday when eight rockets were fired at the Green Zone, home to the US embassy and several other diplomatic missions. One rocket landed near a checkpoint, six landed inside al-Qadisiyah residential complex and one in a pond, Iraq’s Security Media Cell announced in a statement on Sunday.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh condemned Pompeo’s remarks on Monday, saying that attacking diplomatic and residential premises is “unacceptable” and has always been rejected by Tehran.

Khatibzadeh also warned the United States “to avoid warmongering and raising tension in these days,” as the anniversary of the US assassination of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – killed in an airstrike in Baghdad on January 3 – grows nearer.

American compounds and personnel have come under regular rocket and IED attacks since Soleimani’s death in January.

His assassination came after the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia killed a US contractor in December 2019 in a rocket attack on a Kirkuk’s K1 military base, prompting US attacks against five facilities belonging to the group in Iraq and Syria – killing at least 25 of its militants.

The US embassy was stormed by supporters of Iran-backed militias at the end of December last year.

Khatibzadeh described the timing and the nature of the attack, and Pompeo’s comments, as “suspicious,” claiming the US had prepared a statement in advance.

“Targeting the bases of the American occupation is a right guaranteed by the laws of heaven and earth, and we will not give up, to liberate our country and avenge our martyrs,” Qais Khazali, secretary general of the Iran-backed Asaib al-Haq militia, tweeted on Sunday following the attack.

“The time for a response has not come yet, but it’s not far away,” he warned.

Iran-backed militias announced a “conditional” ceasefire in October, suspending attacks targeting US personnel and facilities provided that the United States withdraws from Iraq.

It was broken by a rocket attack in the Green Zone on November 17, killing a child and injuring five other civilians, just hours after the Pentagon announced it was reducing United States military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Khazali announced the end of the truce in November, saying  “it is wrong to carry weapons without any reason, but only when it serves a clear goal. Whenever the goal disappears, so do the weapons.”

The Trump administration has also escalated tensions with Tehran by imposing further waves of heavy sanctions on senior Iranian officials and entities following the US withdrawal from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Source