Militants target central Baghdad, Balad, and Mosul, Iraq, in low-level artillery attacks Jan. 4. At least five persons reported injured.

 

Severity: Critical Alert

Locations affected by this alert: Baghdad, BALAD*, MOSUL*

 

This Alert began Jan 04, 2020 20:17 UTC and is scheduled to expire Jan 06, 2020 23:59 UTC.

 
  • Incident: Artillery attacks
  • Location: Green Zone and Al Jadriyah neighborhood in Baghdad; Balad Air Base, Balad (map)
  • Time/Date: Evening Jan. 4
  • Fatalities (Injuries): 0+ (5+)

Summary
Unidentified assailants conducted low-level artillery attacks targeting several locations in in Iraq during the evening of Jan. 4. In central Baghdad, two projectiles reportedly impacted in Grand Festivities Square inside the city's heavily-fortified Green Zone at about 2000, with a third striking in the Al Jadriyah neighborhood on the southern bank of the Tigris River. There were no reports of casualties and no foreign diplomatic missions were struck in the attack on the Green Zone; at least five persons were injured in the attack on Al Jadriyah. It is unclear whether mortars or rocket launchers were used in the strikes.

At the same time, militants launched at least two Katyusha rockets at Balad Air Base about 80 km (50 miles) north of the Iraqi capital; there have been no reports of casualties in this incident. Additionally, preliminary reports indicate that the former presidential palaces complex and Al Kindi Military Base in the northern city of Mosul also came under attack by mortar and rocket fire; however, details of the events in Mosul remain unclear, although no casualties have as yet been reported. Both Iraqi and US military personnel are stationed at all three of the targeted facilities in Balad and Mosul.

Authorities will almost certainly maintain an extremely tight security posture near sensitive sites - including facilities where US personnel are present - over the coming days. Additional attacks are highly likely.

Background and Analysis
Although no group has as yet claimed responsibility for the Jan. 4 attacks, they are almost certainly the work of pro-Iran militias seeking revenge for the Jan. 3 killing of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and several prominent Iraqi Shi'a militia leaders in a US air strike. Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, which is the external wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and focuses on special and clandestine operations outside Iran. He was the main architect of Iran's military adventures and played a pivotal role in the country's activities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Soleimani was also Iran's most formidable military commander and a favorite of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei has vowed revenge for his death.

Advice
If operating in Iraq, exercise extreme caution over the coming days until the extent and nature of any reprisal attacks over Soleimani's death become clear. Avoid all gatherings and rallies. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Plan for delays to diplomatic services and Iraqi government operations across the country. Reconfirm business appointments. If incoming artillery fire is reported in the general vicinity, stay indoors, away from windows and exterior walls, and, if possible, move to a ground floor or basement. Check flight status before departing for the airport if traveling via Baghdad International Airport (BGW) as sporadic security incidents may prompt flight disruptions with little to no warning. Do not check out of accommodations until onward travel is confirmed.