Darren Adam 1am - 4am
Multiple US bases in Iraq hit with rockets in aftermath of General Soleimani killing
4 January 2020, 18:09 | Updated: 4 January 2020, 20:58
Explosions have been reported near multiple American embassies and camps in Iraq in the first sign of a retaliation against a US airstrike which killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Two rockets were fired near the location of the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Balad Airbase, north of the city, has also been targeted by another three rockets, according to Sky News Arabia.
The base is currently home to an unknown number of American Troops.
According to international news agency Reuters, two of the Katyusha rockets landed within the perimeters of the base.
Mortar also fell in Baghdad's Jadriya neighbourhood and police forces said five people were injured.
The Iraqi military said there were no deaths in any of of the attacks.
A statement said: "Several rockets targeting Celebration Square and the Jadriya area in Baghdad, and the Balad air base in Salahuddin province, with no loss of life. Further details to come."
In the wake of the attacks, the UK's Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said the Royal Navy will resume escorting British ships through the Strait of Hormuz.
Mr Wallace said: "Yesterday I spoke to my US counterpart Secretary Esper and we urge all parties to engage to de-escalate the situation. During the last few months US forces in Iraq, who are based in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, have been repeatedly attacked by Iranian back militia.
"General Soleimani has been at the heart of the use of proxies to undermine neighbouring sovereign nations and target Iran's enemies. Under international law the United States is entitled to defend itself against those posing an imminent threat to their citizens.
"I have instructed preparations for HMS Montrose and HMS Defender to return to accompanying duties of Red Ensign Shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
"The Government will take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens at this time."
In the minutes after the rockets landed close to the US Embassy, security was ramped up once again in the area.
Both explosives are reported to have landed in the Green Zone of Baghdad, a heavily fortified area home to many America's administrative buildings in the city.
There are also fears there could be further attacks on US bases on Sunday, with Iraq's pro-Iran Kataib Hezbollah militia warning Iraqi forces to stay at least 1km from from the areas.
Just hours before the rockets were launched, tens of thousands of mourners took to the streets for a funeral procession for Soleimani and the other members of Iran's military who were killed in the US airstrike.
The move has since been called "an act of war" by Tehran.
Iran’s UN envoy Majid Takht Ravanchi told CNN the killing was "tantamount to opening a war against Iran."
He added: "The response for military action is a military action."
The embassy was stormed by pro-Iran protester earlier this week in a siege that lasted for more than 24-hours.
General Soleimani was head of Iran's elite Quds Force and masterminded Tehran's regional security strategy.
He was killed in the early hours of Friday morning in a targeted strike at Baghdad Airport in the neighbouring Iraq in the early hours of Friday morning.
Iran's upper echelons swiftly vowed "crushing revenge" for the assassination, which follows years of tensions between the Islamic Republic and the US.
US President Donald Trump said he ordered the strike to prevent the outbreak of war, but Iran was threatening harsh retaliation.
Mr Trump said Soleimani had been "plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel".
General Qassem Soleimani "made the death of innocent people his sick passion", Mr Trump said from his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, adding "a lot of lives would have been saved" if he had been hunted down years ago.
He went on to say: "But we caught him in the act and terminated him" and "We take comfort knowing his reign of terror is now over."
Mr Trump stressed: "We took action last night to stop a war.
"We did not take action to start a war."
Just hours after Mr Trump's speech, an air strike hit two cars carrying Iran-backed militia north of Baghdad, killing five people.
Amid fears wider conflict could break out, an American official denied the US was behind the second airstrike.
President Trump continued with his rhetoric despite widespread calls for calm, saying that General Soleimani's "reign of terror is over" and describing him as having a "sick passion" for killing.