Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday to urge the country’s dwindling number of Christians to stay put and help rebuild the country after years of war and persecution, brushing aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns to make his first-ever papal visit. Among the highlights of the three-day visit is Francis’ private meeting Saturday with the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered figure in Iraq and beyond.
Ten rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base hosting U.S.-led coalition troops Wednesday, the latest in a series of rocket attacks in Iraq with this one just days before the Pope is due to visit the country. Wednesday’s rocket attack follows a U.S. airstrike last week in eastern Syria that killed one fighter in an Iranian-backed militia and wounded two others, according to the Pentagon.
A civilian contractor was killed and five others were wounded in a rocket attack Monday at a U.S.-led military base in Kurdish northern Iraq that also left a U.S. service member with a concussion, according to U.S. officials. The blast in Irbil was the most deadly attack to hit U.S.-led forces in Iraq for almost a year.
At least 32 people have died and dozens more are wounded after a double suicide attack in Iraq’s capital. According to police in Baghdad, the explosions hit a commercial area in the centre of the city. Many of the wounded – of which there are at least 73 – are reported to be in a serious condition and there was widespread damage to buildings.
A rocket attack on Baghdad’s diplomatic Green Zone Sunday night was “a terrorist act” that undermines Iraq’s international reputation, the country’s president says. Eight rockets were fired at the heavily fortified area, with at least one Iraqi soldier injured. The military said most of the rockets hit the Qadisiya residential neighborhood near the US Embassy, damaging several buildings and cars.
More than 2,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq this month, the commander of U.S. Central Command said Wednesday. “In recognition of the great progress the Iraqi forces have made and in consultation and coordination with the Government of Iraq and our coalition partners, the United States has decided to reduce our troop presence in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during the month of September,” said Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie.
At least three rockets struck the US embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Sunday. At least three people were injured, security sources told Reuters. This would be the first time in years that staff have been hurt in such attacks. No group has claimed responsibility but the US has blamed Iran-backed military factions in Iraq in the past.
Iraqi security forces killed at least 14 people in the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala overnight after opening fire on protesters, medical and security sources said, in a return to tactics denounced by the government’s own internal inquiry. Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets this week in a second wave of protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government and a political elite they say are corrupt and out of touch.
Barham Salih was elected as the new president of Iraq on Tuesday by the parliament ending months of deadlock following the inconclusive national election in May. British-educated Kurdish politician Salih named Shi’ite Adel Abdul Mahdi as the prime minister-delegate. Salih is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
A storage site holding half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May caught on fire on Sunday days after parliament called for a nationwide recount. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the fire was a plot to harm Iraq’s democratic process. It is unclear whether voting papers were destroyed.