Erbil, Iraq — Iraq’s chief minister was unharmed in an attack by an explosive-filled drone on his residence in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, officials said Sunday.
Iraqi state media described the attack as an assassination attempt on the chief minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
In a televised video message, al-Kadhimi said the residence “came under a cowardly attack, but thanks to God, me and all those who work with me are safe.” Al Kadhimi also called for calm and restraint in the wake of the attack, which occurred early Sunday.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry said the attack involved three drones, two of which were shot down by Iraqi security forces, while the third managed to hit the residence. The attack represented the first serious assassination attempt of an Iraqi chief minister in the years since the American invasion of 2003.
No one closest claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iraqi officials in Baghdad who spoke to CBS News pointed the finger at pro-Iranian Shiite militias who have conducted similar attacks on Baghdad’s Green Zone, the U.S. Embassy and the airport in Erbil.
A source close to the Iraqi chief minister who was not empowered to speak publicly told CBS News that “the character of the attack, the drone used and the timing indicates that the same pro-Iranian militias used to carry out attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Erbil International Airport are behind this act.”
The assassination attempt came less than two days after heavily armed pro-Iranian militias threatened to keep up the chief minister accountable for casualties resulting from a confrontation between Iraqi security forces and pro-militia demonstrators protesting recent election results, in which pro-Iranian militias suffered major losses in Parliament.
On Friday, Iraqi security forces guarding the Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government’s headquarters and diplomatic missions including the U.S. Embassy, clashed with protesters pushing claims of election fraud and demanding manual vote recounts. The confrontation left at the minimum one dead and 127 injured.
Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the pro-Iranian militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, told protesters that they keep up al-Kadhimi responsible for the bloodshed.
On Sunday, the United Nations, the U.S., Iran and other countries condemned the attack on al-Khadimi’s residence as an act of terror. President Biden said he had “instructed my national security team to offer all appropriate assistance to Iraq’s security forces as they probe this attack and clarify those responsible.”
“I am relieved the chief Minister was not injured and commend the leadership he has shown in calling for calm, restraint, and dialogue to protect the institutions of the state and strengthen the democracy Iraqis so richly deserve,” Mr. Biden said. “The perpetrators of this terrorist attack on the Iraqi state must be held accountable. I condemn in the strongest terms those using violence to undermine Iraq’s democratic course of action.”
Several leaders of Iraqi pro-Iranian militias said the attack on the chief minister’s residence might be fabricated and staged to distract from the reported deaths of election protesters.
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