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Iraqi forces in Green Zone on alert after three Western targets attacked in 24 hours

Iraqi officials believe the attacks are a response to the prime minister's attempts to fight corruption
Iraqi officials said they interpret the attacks as a response to Kadhimi's reform agenda (Reuters)

Three separate attacks in 24 hours have targeted Western diplomatic or military installations in Iraq, security and diplomatic sources said on Tuesday, hinting at a new escalation between authorities and rogue groups.

While no casualties were reported in any of the attacks, Iraqi officials told AFP they see the spike as an indirect way to pressure the government as it tries to fight against corruption.

On Tuesday morning, an improvised explosive device targeted a British embassy vehicle returning from Baghdad airport, a diplomatic source told AFP.

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The attack, the first against a British government vehicle in Iraq in more than a decade, took place just outside the high-security Green Zone that houses the British embassy and other diplomatic missions, the source said. 

A security official confirmed the details of the attack and said Iraqi forces inside the Green Zone were on alert.

Overnight, two Katyusha rockets targeted the US embassy, also in the Green Zone, the same security official said.

The embassy's C-RAM rocket defence system shot both down.

Witnesses reported hearing a deep rolling sound, then a blast and seeing sprays of red lights.

The C-RAM, set up earlier this year at the embassy, scans for incoming munitions and explodes them in the air by targeting them with several thousand bullets per minute. 

The attacks in the past day come as armed groups in recent months have also targeted Iraqi activists in Baghdad and Basra. A number have been killed or injured in what has been seen by some as a warning sign against attempts to rein in the power of the militias.

Personnel changes

Hours earlier on Monday, two explosive devices targeted a  US-led coalition equipment convoy, the Iraqi military said in a statement.

Iraqi intelligence sources have blamed similar attacks on a small group of Iran-backed paramilitary factions.

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Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has pledged to rein in rogue groups but has struggled to hold the perpetrators of such attacks to account.

Top Iraqi officials have told AFP they interpret the attacks as a response to Kadhimi's reform agenda, which such groups fear could deprive them of their sources of funding. 

The recent spike on Tuesday came just after the prime minister's office announced major personnel changes, including senior posts at the central bank, the Integrity Commission and the Investment Commission. 

The new appointments are intended to clear out corruption in those institutions, officials said. 

Iraq is ranked one of the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International, with some $450bn in public funds vanishing into the pockets of politicians and businessmen since 2003.