This story has been updated with comment from the State Department.
After weeks of sustained air strikes in Iraq, Islamic State fighters have reportedly hit Baghdad’s international zone with mortars on Monday.
The so-called “Green Zone” is in the heart of the city and lies along the Tigris River. The U.S. Embassy is located there, along with several Iraqi government buildings.
CNN’s Ben Wedemen, reporting from Baghdad, said several mortar rounds landed in the Green Zone, also known as the international zone. Officials with U.S. Central Command referred Defense One to the State Department. “We’ve confirmed there was NO mortar attack today in the IZ,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf tweeted late Monday. “Security systems that detect/warn of incoming indirect fire activated apparently by approaching friendly aircraft - but was no incoming fire.”
Several news outlets said the Islamic State is now operating in Abu Ghraib, a city just west of Baghdad and only a few miles from the Baghdad International Airport, where U.S. troops are positioned. It’s possible the mortar attacks were launched from Abu Ghraib, based on the proximity of its location. Pro-Shiite militias are also operating in the area.
The Islamic State, aka ISIS or ISIL, continues to hammer Kobani, a key Syrian city on the Turkish border, with tanks and heavy artillery. There were reports Monday that an ISIL flag has been raised on a major building there. In June, the State Department beefed up security and relocated some diplomatic staff to consulates in Basra and Irbil. The Pentagon has a Joint Command Center in Baghdad to help advise and assist the Iraqi military.
In July, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said he was confident that Iraqi security forces could hold Baghdad, saying that “they would be challenged to go on the offense—mostly logistically challenged—and that the call that the Ayatollah Sistani put out for [Shiite] volunteers is being answered and it complicates the situation, frankly, a bit.”