Iraqi PM escapes ‘assassination attempt’ drone blast

A handout picture released by the Iraq Prime Minister’s Media Office on November 7, 2021 shows PM Mustafa al-Kadhemi heading a meeting, hours after his residence was targeted by a drone attack

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi escaped unhurt from an “assassination attempt” in which an explosives-packed drone hit his Baghdad residence early Sunday, a new escalation in the country’s post-election turmoil.

Washington condemned the “apparent act of terrorism” while Iraqi President Barham Saleh called the attack, which was not immediately claimed by any group, an attempted “coup against the constitutional system”.

Three drones were launched from near a Tigris River bridge but two were intercepted, said security sources, adding that two bodyguards were wounded.

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Photos issued by Kadhemi’s office showed debris strewn on the ground below a damaged exterior stairway and a door that had been dislodged.

The attack came two days after security forces clashed with supporters of Iran-backed parties that lost support in the October 10 parliament election, and who have charged they were the victims of vote irregularities.

After the drone attack, Qais al-Khazali, the head of Assaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the main pro-Iran groups of the Hashed, called for the perpetrators to be “brought to justice”.

The United States, which has around 2,500 troops in the country, said it was “relieved to learn the Prime Minister was unharmed”.

The European Union said the perpetrators “must be held accountable” while Britain and NATO both condemned the attack.

He directed blame at the US, which led the 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein and kicked off years of sectarian conflict.

“They have sought to achieve their sinister regional goals by creating terrorist groups that seek to cause sedition.”

Moqtada Sadr, an influential Shiite Muslim preacher whose political movement was the big election winner, condemned the drone attack as “against Iraq and the Iraqi people”.

– Mounting tensions –

Hundreds of Hashed supporters clashed with police on Friday, while protesting near the Green Zone to vent their fury over the preliminary result.

Several hundred supporters of pro-Iranian groups returned to the edge of the Green Zone on Saturday to protest, and some burned a portrait of the prime minister, whom they called a “criminal”.

Kadhemi brought forward the ballot, originally planned for next year, in a concession to anti-government protests over endemic corruption, unemployment, failing public services and the influence of Iran.

Other drone attacks in Iraq have occurred over the last few months, particularly against American interests.

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