BAGHDAD (AP) — Five Iraqi civilians were killed and two severely wounded Monday after a Katyusha rocket hit near Baghdad airport, Iraq’s military said. It was the first time in months an attack caused civilian casualties.
The rocket targeted the international airport but struck a residential home close by instead. Among the dead were three children and two women. Two children were also severely wounded. The home was completely destroyed.
The rocket was launched from the al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad.
A statement from the military described the attack as a “cowardly crime” perpetrated by “criminal gangs” with the aim of creating chaos and terrorizing people.
It said Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had ordered the arrest of the perpetrators and said “these gangs will not be allowed to go around and tamper with security” with impunity.
The attacks have become a frequent occurrence, often targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad, within the heavily fortified Green Zone, and US troops present in Iraqi bases as well as the Baghdad airport. Roadside bombs have also frequently targeted convoys carrying equipment destined for US-led coalition forces.
Previous attacks have caused minor damage but rarely deaths or injuries.
The frequency of the rockets have strained Iraq-US relations, prompting the Trump administration last week to threaten to close its diplomatic mission in Baghdad if Shiite militia groups believed to be orchestrating them are not reigned in.
The disparate nature of Shiite militias following the US assassination of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and Iranian militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis has complicated Iraqi efforts to clamp down on rogue armed elements.
A government raid on the powerful Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, suspected of launching rocket attacks, backfired when those detained were released for want of evidence.
Abdul-Zahra reported from Boston.