BAGHDAD (NWN) — Troops and patrols were deployed across Baghdad on Sunday after a failed assassination attempt with a drone targeting Iraq’s prime minister at his residence. The attack significantly escalated tensions due to the refusal of Iran-backed militias to accept last month’s parliamentary election results.
Seven security guards of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi were injured when at least two drones struck Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone area, according to two Iraqi officials. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make an official statement.
An aide said al-Kadhimi suffered a minor jolt. He later appeared on Iraqi television, sitting behind a desk in a white shirt, looking calm and calm, with a bandage visible on his left arm.
“Cwardly rocket and drone strikes neither build homes nor build a future,” al-Kadhimi said during the televised presentation. Later on Sunday, he met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and chaired a government security meeting.
An explosion and heavy gunfire echoed in Baghdad from the direction of the Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and government offices. Handout photos show damage to al-Kadhimi’s residence, including broken windows and doors with broken hinges.
A video later distributed by security forces showed more damage: a van parked outside the residence badly damaged, a shallow pothole near the stairs, cracks in the roof and walls of a balcony, and broken parts of the building’s roof. . Two small non-detonated rockets were also filmed at the scene.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on Iran-backed militias, who were publicly attacking al-Kadhimi. He was blamed for the previous attacks on the Green Zone.
The attack came amid a standoff between security forces and pro-Iranian Shia militias, whose supporters have been camping outside the green zone for nearly a month. They gathered after rejecting the results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections, in which they lost nearly two-thirds of their seats.
“The attempted murder is a dramatic escalation, crossing a line in unprecedented fashion, which can have violent resonances,” Ranj Aldine, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in a post on Twitter.
The protest turned deadly on Friday when protesters tried to enter the green zone. Security forces fired tear gas shells and used ammunition. There was an exchange of fire in which a protester belonging to the militia was killed. Dozens of security forces were injured. Al-Khadimi ordered an investigation.
Leaders of some of the most powerful militia groups loyal to Iran have openly blamed al-Kadhimi for Friday’s clashes and the protesters’ deaths. Several leaders of the faction, known together as the Popular Mobilization Forces or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic, attended the funeral of the protester on Saturday.
“The blood of the martyrs is there to hold you accountable,” said Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Assab Ahl al-Haq militia, addressing al-Kadhimi in recorded remarks to supporters. “The protesters had only one demand against election fraud. Responding (with live fire) means that you are the first person responsible for this fraud.”
On Sunday, several faction leaders dismissed the assassination attempt, suggesting it may have been staged.
Al-Khazali suggested that the militia was being framed and called in to investigate.
Other PMF leaders who condemned the attack blamed it on “third parties” who were trying to instigate conflict.
In the strongest criticism of the prime minister, Abu Ali al-Askari, a senior leader with the most staunch pro-Iran militia, Kataib Hezbollah, questioned whether the assassination attempt was actually al-Kadhimi’s “attempt to play a role”. Hunt.”
“According to our confirmed information, no one in Iraq wishes to lose a drone at their residence,” al-Kadhimi’s al-Askari wrote in a Twitter post. “If someone wants to harm this Facebook creature there are a number of ways that are less costly and more effective than realizing it.”
Brigadier al-Kadhimi’s spokesman and Iraq’s Commander-in-Chief General Yahya Rasool told Beirut-based al-Mayadeen TV that the drone flew at a low altitude over southeast Baghdad and could not be detected by defensive systems.
Influential Shia cleric Muktada al-Sadr, who won the most parliament seats in the October 10 elections, condemned the “terrorist attack” which he said seeks to return Iraq to the anarchy and anarchy of the past. Al-Sadr maintains good relations with Iran, but he publicly opposes outside interference in Iraq’s affairs.
Al-Kadhimi, 54, was Iraq’s former intelligence chief before becoming prime minister in May last year. He is considered close to the US by militias, and has tried to strike a balance between Iraq’s alliances with both the US and Iran. Ahead of the elections, he hosted several rounds of talks between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad to defuse regional tensions.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, condemned the assassination attempt on al-Khadimi and indirectly blamed the US. He elaborated on “conspiracies targeting Iraq’s security and progress” at a briefing he said. Without telling
Khatibzadeh said such incidents “are in the interest of parties that have invaded Iraq’s stability, security, independence and territorial integrity over the past 18 years.”
The US strongly condemned the attack.
“This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn, was at the heart of the Iraqi state,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Facebook for all sides in Iraq to “calm down, abandon violence and join forces to maintain the country’s stability”.
al-Sisi, French President Emmanuel Macron; Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati were among the leaders who called on al-Kadhimi on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia issued a statement of support for stability in Iraq and said it strongly condemned the “cowardly terrorist attack”.
The United States, the United Nations Security Council and others have praised the election, which was mostly violence-free and without major technical glitches.
But after the vote, militia supporters pitched tents near the Green Zone, bemoaning the results and threatening violence unless their demands for recounting were met.
Baseless claims of voter fraud have cast a shadow over the vote. The standoff with militia supporters has also increased tensions between rival Shiite factions that could escalate into violence and threaten Iraq’s new relative stability.
The election was held ahead of schedule in response to mass protests in late 2019 that saw thousands rally in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment. He also opposed the heavy interference of neighboring Iran in Iraq’s affairs through Iran-backed militias.
The militias have lost some popularity since the 2018 vote, when they made huge electoral gains. Many hold him responsible for suppressing the 2019 protests and challenging the authority of the state.
Associated Press writers Zeena Karam in Vienna, Sarah El Dieb in Beirut, Jon Gambrel and Aya Batrawi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Sammy Magdy in Cairo contributed.