Rockets hit near Baghdad airport, timer launcher found

BAGHDAD: Three Katyusha rockets landed on the perimeter on Wednesday but caused no damage or casualties, the Iraqi army said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Security officials said it was not immediately clear if the target was a military base that would house US troops next to the airport.

The United States attributes a series of rocket attacks near or at bases that host its troops this year to militia groups aligned with Iran, although those groups have not claimed them.

Tension between the United States and Iran has escalated in the past year, culminating in the assassination of the Iranian military mastermind and the Iraqi paramilitary chief in a drone attack at Baghdad airport in January.

Iran-backed paramilitary groups vow to avenge their deaths, and rocket attacks on bases housing US troops have persisted. The rocket attacks have also impacted near the United States embassy in Baghdad, with at least one direct impact on the complex.

After Wednesday's attack, the army said it found a timer rocket launcher in a rural area in western Baghdad, and that no damage or casualties were reported.

The rockets were fired from the Bakriya neighborhood, about 6 km (4 miles) northeast of the airport, and security forces were deployed to search the area, security sources said.

Iraq faces the COVID-19 pandemic, an impending economic crisis, and increasing security threats, including the confrontation between the United States and Iran and the resurgence of the Islamic State, without a functioning government.

IS has intensified the attacks this month, including one that killed at least 10 paramilitaries in the northern province of Salahuddin, according to paramilitary and security statements.

The United States-led coalition in Iraq to combat Islamic State militants has begun to cut troop numbers and moved soldiers to fewer bases. He says this is because the Iraqi forces are now mostly capable of fighting IS remnants on their own.

Iraqi lawmakers will vote on a new government introduced by Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi later on Wednesday. He has been without a prime minister since Adel Abdul Mahdi , who remains a caregiver, resigned amid anti-government protests in November.

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