Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survived an attempted drone attack on his home. A militia supported by Iran is suspected behind it.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survived an attack by armed drones that targeted his residence early Sunday. Officials said he was unharmed. The attack was a major escalation amid tensions sparked by the refusal of Iran-backed militias to accept last month’s parliamentary election results.
Two Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that seven of al- Kadhimi’s security forces were injured in the attack by two armed drones in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to make official statements.
« I am fine and among my people. Thank God, » the Prime Minister tweeted shortly after the attack. He called for calm and restraint, « for the sake of Iraq ».
He later appeared on Iraqi television, sat behind a desk in a white shirt and looked calm and collected. « Cowardly rocket and drone strikes do not build a home or a future, » he said.
In a statement, the government said a drone loaded with explosives tried to hit al-Kadhimi’s house. Baghdad residents heard the sound of an explosion from the direction of the Green Zone, which is home to foreign embassies and government offices, followed by heavy gunfire.
The statement released by state media said the security forces were “taking the necessary measures in connection with this failed attempt ”.
There was no immediate claim to the attack. There is a stalemate between security forces and pro-Iranian Shiite militias, whose supporters camped outside the Green Zone for almost a month after rejecting the results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections, in which they lost around two-thirds of their seats.« The assassination attempt is a dramatic escalation that unprecedentedly crosses a line that can have violent repercussions, » wrote Ranj Alaaldin, a non-resident fellow of the Brookings Institution, in a post on Twitter.
The protests were on Fatal Friday when protesters tried to break into the Green Zone. Security forces used tear gas and live ammunition. An exchange of fire broke out in the course of which a demonstrator linked to the militia was killed. Dozens of security guards were injured. Al-Khadimi ordered an investigation to find out what sparked the clashes and who broke the order not to open fire.
Some of the leaders of the most powerful militias loyal to Iran made al -Kadhimi openly responsible for the clashes on Friday and the protester’s death.
« It is the blood of the martyrs to hold you accountable, » said Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia al-Kadhimi at a funeral for the protesters on Saturday. “The demonstrators only had one demand against election fraud. Such a reaction (with keen fire) means that you are the first to be responsible for this fraud. ”
The funeral was attended by leaders of the mostly Shiite factions supported by Iran, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces or Hashd al-Shaabi are known in Arabic.
Abu Alaa al-Walae, commander of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, agreed to a different term in a tweet that was apparently addressed to al-Kadhimi and did not name him forgotten.
Al-Kadhimi, 54, was Iraq’s former intelligence chief before becoming Prime Minister last May. He is viewed by the militias as close to the US and has tried to strike a balance between Iraq’s alliances with the US and Iran. Before the elections, he held several rounds of talks between regional enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad in order to reduce regional tensions.
Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the National Security Council of Iran, said indirectly in a tweet on Sunday that the United States are behind the attack.
The attack on al-Kadhimi « is a new uproar that can be traced back to foreign think tanks, which have created nothing but uncertainty for the oppressed Iraqi people through the establishment of the & support for the & terrorist groups, He said.
« This overt act of terrorism, which we condemn strongly, was directed against the heart of the Iraqi state, » said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
« We are in close contact with the Iraqi security forces, who are tasked with maintaining the sovereignty and independence of Iraq, and have offered our support in investigating this attack, « he added.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also condemned the attack. On Facebook he called on all sides in Iraq to « calm down, renounce violence and unite to preserve the stability of the country ».
Anwar Gargash, a prominent diplomat from the United Arab Emirates, thanked God on Twitter that al-Kadhimi survived the attack. « May God protect Iraq and its people from harm and may they live freely, proudly, and independently, » he wrote.
The United States, the UN Security Council, and others have commended the October 10 elections, the largely non-violent and without major technical disruptions.
But after the vote, militia supporters pitched tents near the Green Zone, rejected the election result and threatened violence if their demands for a recount were not met.
The unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud overshadowed the vote. The clash with militia supporters has also increased tensions between rival Shiite groups that could turn into violence and threaten Iraq’s newfound relative stability.
The elections took place months ahead of schedule in response to mass protests 2019, in which tens of thousands in Baghdad and predominantly Shiite southern provinces protested against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment. They also protested neighboring Iran’s gross interference in Iraq’s affairs by Iran-backed militias.
The militias have lost some of their popularity since the 2018 vote when they achieved large election wins. Many blame them for suppressing the 2019 protests and questioning the authority of the state.
The greatest gains were achieved by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who won the most seats with 73 of 329 parliamentary seats. Despite having good relations with Iran, al-Sadr publicly opposes outside interference in Iraq’s affairs.
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