Baghdad's Green Zone targeted by rocket fire; Iraqi soldier killed

Two rockets were fired into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone near the U.S. Embassy Wednesday, killing one Iraqi soldier amid unprecedented anti-government protests and a violent security crackdown.

Security officials told The Associated Press one of the Katyusha rockets landed about 110 yards away from the perimeter of the U.S. Embassy, triggering alert sirens. A soldier manning a checkpoint near a restaurant was killed, they added. The Green Zone is home to several Western embassies and government offices. Earlier this week, three rockets struck a large military base north of Baghdad that houses U.S. and Iraqi forces. No casualties were reported.

AT LEAST 31 DEAD IN IRAQ AS ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS GRIP COUNTRY

The protests have picked up momentum in recent days as demonstrators call out deteriorating living conditions, unemployment and corruption. They have been joined by supporters of an influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called on the government to resign. Iraq’s semi-official human rights commission said 100 people have been killed and over 5,000 injured just since Friday, when protests picked up again after a three-week hiatus.

Anti-government protesters stand on a building near Tahrir Square in Baghdad Wednesday during ongoing protests. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Anti-government protesters stand on a building near Tahrir Square in Baghdad Wednesday during ongoing protests. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The deaths bring to nearly 250 the overall number of people killed this month as security forces crack down on the growing protest movement. On Tuesday, masked gunmen opened fire at Iraqi protesters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing 18 people and wounding hundreds.

The protests are unprecedented in their scope and the fact that they are mostly grassroots, leaderless and spontaneous. In recent days, university and school students have also joined the protesters. Civil society groups have formed, including young people who clean the streets of litter left behind by the protesters.

MASKED IRAQI SECURITY FORCES OPEN FIRE ON PROTESTERS, KILLING 18: REPORT

Despite its vast oil wealth, Iraq suffers from high unemployment and crumbling infrastructure, with frequent power outages that force many to rely on private generators.

The demonstrations have occurred in Shiite-majority areas and have been directed at the Shiite-dominated government and Shiite political parties and militias, many of which are supported by neighboring Iran.

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The protests have grown and demonstrators are now calling for sweeping changes, not just the government's resignation. Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has promised a government reshuffle and reforms, which the demonstrators have already rejected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.