Exploding drone assassination attempt on Iraqi PM fails

An exploding drone aimed at the Iraqi prime minister’s house has failed to kill him, the government has said. Mustafa al-Kadhimi was reported by the government to be unharmed.

In a statement released early on Sunday, the government said the drone tried to hit al-Kadhimi’s home in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and government offices. Residents of Baghdad heard an explosion followed by gunfire in the area.

Two Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that seven of his security guards were injured in the attack. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to give 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, seated behind a desk in a white shirt, looking calm and composed. “Cowardly rocket and drone attacks don’t build homelands and don’t build a future,” he said.

The security statement released by state-run media said the failed assassination attempt was with “a booby-trapped drone that tried to target his residence in the Green Zone”. It added that he was not harmed and was in good health.

“The security forces are taking the necessary measures in connection with this failed attempt,” it said.

The US condemned the attack as an “apparent act of terrorism” and has offered its assistance to Iraqi security forces investigating the strike.

“We are relieved to learn the prime minister was unharmed. This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn, was directed at the heart of the Iraqi state,” state department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Pro-Iran Shia militias supporters have been camped outside the Green Zone for nearly a month after they rejected the results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections, in which they were the biggest losers.

Protests turned deadly on Friday when the demonstrators marched towards the Green Zone and there was an exchange of fire in which one protester was killed and dozens of security forces were injured.

Al-Khadimi ordered an investigation to determine what sparked the clashes and who violated orders not to open fire. Some militia leaders have openly blamed al-Kadhimi for Friday’s clashes and the protester’s death.

Al-Kadhimi, 54, was Iraq’s former intelligence chief before becoming prime minister in May last year. He is considered by the militias to be close to the US, and has tried to find a balance between Iraq’s alliances with the US and Iran.

Prior to the elections, he hosted several rounds of talks between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad in a bid to ease regional tensions.

The US, the UN security council and others have praised the 10 October election, which was mostly violence-free and without major technical glitches.

After the vote, militia supporters had pitched tents near the Green Zone, rejecting the election results and threatening violence unless their demands for a recount were met.

The unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud have cast a shadow over the vote, while the standoff with the militia supporters has also increased tensions among rival Shia factions.

The election was held months ahead of schedule in response to mass protests in late 2019, which saw tens of thousands in Baghdad and predominantly Shia southern provinces rally against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment.

They also protested against the heavy-handed interference of neighbouring Iran in Iraq’s affairs through Iran-backed militias.

The militias have lost popularity since the 2018 vote, when they made big election gains. Many Iraqis hold them responsible for suppressing the 2019 protests, and for challenging the state’s authority.

The biggest gains in this year’s poll were made by influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who won the largest number of parliament seats, 73 out of 329. While he maintains good relations with Iran, al-Sadr publicly opposes external interference in Iraq’s affairs.

The protests appeared to be aimed at pressuring al-Sadr to ensure that Iran-aligned factions are part of the next Cabinet. As the winner, al-Sadr’s bloc will seek coalition partners and name the prime minister.

With Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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