Washington condemned the “apparent act of terrorism,” while Iraqi President Barham Saleh called the attack, which was not immediately claimed by any group, as an attempted “coup against the constitutional system.”
Kadhemi, 54, and in power since May 2020, called for “calm and restraint” before chairing a meeting at his office in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone, where the night attack took place.
Three drones were launched from near a bridge over the Tigris River, but two were intercepted, security sources said, adding that two bodyguards were injured.
Shots were heard and smoke rose from the Green Zone after the attack, which the prime minister’s office called a “failed assassination attempt.”
Photos released by Kadhemi’s office showed debris scattered on the ground under a damaged exterior staircase and a door that had come off.
Kadhemi said in a short video that “my residence has been the target of a cowardly assault. Praise God, I’m fine. ”The attack came two days after security forces clashed with supporters of Iran-backed parties who lost support in the October 10 parliamentary elections and who they have accused of having been victims of voting irregularities.
The Conquest Alliance (Fatah), the political arm of the pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network, suffered a substantial decline in seats, leading it to denounce the result as “fraud.”
After the drone attack, Qais al-Khazali, the head of Assaib Ahl al-Haq, one of Hashed’s main pro-Iran groups, called for the perpetrators to be “brought to justice.” The United States, which has about 2,500 soldiers in the country, said it was “relieved to learn that the prime minister was unharmed.” “This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn.The European Union said the perpetrators “must be held accountable,” while Britain and NATO condemned the attack. Iran called for “vigilance to thwart plots aimed at security and development” in Iraq, said its Foreign Ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh.
He directed the blame on the United States, which spearheaded the 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein and sparked years of sectarian conflict. “These incidents are in the interest of those who have violated the stability, security, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq over the past 18 years,” Khatibzadeh said, adding: “They have sought to achieve their sinister regional goals by creating terrorist groups seeking to cause sedition. ”
Condemnation also came from regional power Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, as well as neighboring Jordan and Syria, and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. Moqtada Sadr, an influential Shiite Muslim preacher whose political movement was the big winner in the elections, condemned the drone strike as “against Iraq and the Iraqi people.”
Analyst Renad Mansour from the Chatham House think tank said the attack was “clearly linked to the government formation process.”
The strike came amid mounting tensions over the elections, the fifth such vote since the 2003 US-led invasion. Hundreds of Hashed supporters clashed with police on Friday while protesting near the Green Zone to unload his fury at the preliminary result. One protester died of injuries at a hospital, according to a security source, while a Hashed source said the two protesters were killed.
Several hundred supporters of pro-Iranian groups returned to the edge of the Green Zone on Saturday to protest, and some burned the portrait of the prime minister, calling him a “criminal.” The final results of the elections are expected in a few weeks.
Kadhemi brought forward the vote, originally scheduled for next year, in a concession to anti-government protests over endemic corruption, unemployment, poor public services and Iran’s influence.
The activists accused Hashed’s armed forces, whose 160,000 fighters are now integrated into Iraq’s state security forces, of being indebted to Iran and acting as an instrument of oppression against critics. In recent months there have been other drone attacks in Iraq, especially against American interests.