Embattled Iraq is in ferment again. The country’s Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has survived an assassination attempt after drones laden with explosives targeted his residence in Baghdad.
The attempt on Kadhimi’s life has raised tensions in Iraq weeks after a general election disputed by militia groups backed by Iran. Al-Kadhimi appeared in video footage published by his office on Sunday, chairing a meeting with top security commanders to discuss the drone attack. “The cowardly terrorist attack that targeted the home of the Prime Minister with the aim of assassinating him, is a serious targeting of the Iraqi state by criminal armed groups,” his office said in a statement after the meeting.
At least six members of the Prime Minister’s protection force were wounded in the attack. Security forces in the area shot down two drones, and a third hit alKadhimi’s residence in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, the Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan told state television al-Iraqiya. No group immediately claimed responsibility for what appears to be a militant offensive. Al-Kadhimi said that those behind an attempt on his life were well known and would be exposed.
“We will pursue those who committed yesterday’s crime; we know them well and we will expose them,” he said, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office. Iraqi President Barham Salih called the attack a “terrorist aggression” and a “heinous crime” against Iraq. “This requires unity against the evildoers targeting the security of this country and its people’s safety,” Salih said on Twitter. The attack came two days after deadly protests in the Iraqi capital over the result of a general election held on October 10. The groups leading the protests are heavily armed Iran-backed militias that lost much of their parliamentary power in the election. They have alleged voting fraud and vote-counting irregularities.
The police responded with tear gas and live fire, killing at least one demonstrator. Some of the leaders of the most powerful militia factions openly blamed al-Kadhimi for Friday’s clashes and the protester’s death. “The blood of martyrs will hold you accountable,” said Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, addressing al-Kadhimi at a funeral held for the protester. “The protesters only had one demand against fraud in elections. Responding like this [with live fire] means you are the first responsible for this fraud,” he said. Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Baghdad, said residents of the city heard explosions and gunfire.