Assassination attempt on Iraq’s Prime Minister

November 7, 2021 - 0:0

TEHRAN - Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has survived an assassination attempt which was, according to an interior ministry spokesman, conducted with three drones that targeted his residence in the capital’s heavily fortified green zone. The spokesman has been quoted as saying security forces intercepted and downed two of the unmanned aerial vehicles while a third hit the residence.

An earlier statement from the Prime Minister’s office released by state media said the failed assassination plot was conducted with “an explosives-laden drone” that tried to target the Premier’s home in the Green Zone.

The full statement read the “failed assassination attempt against the Prime Minister, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, by a booby-trapped drone that tried to target his residence in the Green Zone in Baghdad, and that the Prime Minister was not harmed and he is in good health. For their part, the security forces are taking the necessary measures in connection with this failed attempt”.

No group has claimed responsibility for the reported attack on al-Kadhimi's residence. The Iraqi PM has called for “calm and restraint”.

The Iraqi military described the incident as an attempted assassination but said al-Kadhimi had escaped unhurt. Earlier reports that the Prime Minister had been taken to hospital have been dismissed as rumors.

The spokesman for the Iraqi Armed Forces, Major General Yahya Rasoul, confirmed an attempt took place with a booby-trapped drone. He says Iraqi security forces have determined the launching point of the unmanned vehicle and the intelligence apparatus are working to arrest the perpetrators.

Some officials have raised questions as to why the American C-RAM systems, stationed in the green zone to detect and destroy incoming drones and missiles against the compounds of the very large American embassy had not been activated. According to Rasoul this could have been because the UAV took off from southeast of Baghdad, which is apparently not within the range of the U.S. radar system in the green zone.

The security official noted the intelligence services have launched an investigation and when this is implemented and verified, it will be announced to the public saying the country’s armed forces are fully prepared to defend Iraq, the people and its institutions. The spokesman also says said the security situation was stable inside the Green Zone.

Following the incident, footage showed al-Kadhimi chairing a meeting with top security commanders. In a statement following the meeting, the premier’s office said "The cowardly terrorist attack that targeted the home of the prime minister last night with the aim of assassinating him, is a serious targeting of the Iraqi state by criminal armed groups”.

According to two Iraqi officials speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity; seven of al-Kadhimi’s security personnel were injured in the attack with “two armed drones”. Two government officials also spoke to Reuters saying al-Kadhimi's residence had been hit by at least “one explosion”. Security sources told Reuters that “six members of al-Kadhimi's personal protection force” have been injured.

Residents in the capital Baghdad heard the sound of an explosion followed by gunfire from the direction of the Green Zone, which is home to foreign embassies and government ministerial offices.

Different factions in the country have condemned the attack including the Coordinating Committee of the Iraqi resistance factions. Some regional countries also condemned the attack including the Islamic Republic of Iran. Al-Kadhimi was the former intelligence chief of Iraq before he was sworn into office last year in May.

The incident comes on the backdrop of escalating tensions in the country. Just days earlier, demonstrations by supporters of different political parties who have disputed the results of a recent parliamentary election turned violent when demonstrators held a peaceful protest near the Green Zone.

Some elements within the security forces tasked with protecting the green zone responded by attacking the demonstration with tear gas and live gunfire, killing at least one protester, and injuring 120 others in Baghdad. Other reports and statements by officials put the death toll at four.

It was the first significant violent attack against supporters of the political parties disputing the October 10 election who have been holding regular protests since the outcome of the results were announced. They say they are protesting because their votes have been stolen from them.

Several parties disputing the election result say there were irregularities in the voting process and vote counting.

They have provided their evidence to the federal court. The bloc affiliated with the cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who opposes the U.S. military presence in the country, won the most parliamentary seats but fell short of a ruling majority.

Following the violence the leaders of conquest alliance; the second largest  political faction in parliament that has disputed the election called on its supporters to remain calm and demanded an investigation with accountability against whoever shot at the protesters.

Meanwhile a leader of the conquest alliance (mainly comprised of anti-U.S. resistance parties) warned that there may be attempts by enemy forces to attack the green zone and blame the incident on the Iraqi resistance.

Qais al-Khazali called for vigilance saying “our dear ones, the demonstrators, exercise restraint, do not rush and allow an opportunity for anyone who wants to take advantage of [current events] to waste your legitimate rights”.

That call was echoed by other anti-U.S. resistance parties who raised the possibility of a possible plot to destabilize the country or a false flag operation.

Iraq's Joint Operations Command says an investigation has been launched into the deaths and injuries of the demonstrators. Prime Minister al-Kadhimi ordered the formation of a committee to probe the deadly attack on the demonstration.

The Joint Operations Command statement did not mention the number of deaths and injuries.

The statement added that "the negligent will be brought to legal accountability for their negligence and violation of the explicit orders of the commander in chief, which stressed that live bullets should not be fired under any circumstances”.

Al-Kadhimi also ordered compensation for victims of the attack and said he would personally supervise the progress of the investigation.

According to al-Kadhimi's orders, the investigation committee will include the security officials of the Popular Mobilisation Units, one of the most important factions in the country’s armed forces that have preserved the country’s territorial integrity during the era of Daesh terrorists.

Some have already blamed “enemy forces” for the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. A security official with the Iraqi resistance movement Kata'ib Hezbollah, Abu Ali al-Askari said “according to our reliable information, no one in Iraq even has the desire to lose a drone over the house of a former prime minister, and repeating these plots has become an outdated tactic”.

Kata'ib Hezbollah’s use of the term “former” Prime Minister could be because Iraqi Parliamentary elections lead to negotiations to form a ruling a majority that in turn chooses the country’s new prime minister. In the October 10 election; no single political faction received a majority in the legislature.

Many Iraqi political and security officials accuse the U.S. occupation of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs; especially during sensitive times such as the country’s election. Parliament had already passed a bill that has demanded the withdrawal of the American forces present in the country. The legislation was passed following the U.S. state sponsored act of terrorism directly ordered by former President Donald Trump that assassinated Iran’s Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani who was on a diplomatic mission to the country alongside Iraq’s top military commander Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport on January third 2020. The United Nations found the attack violated international law.

However, so far, the U.S. military has refused to leave, angering many in Iraq who view the American occupation as posing the biggest security and political threat to the country’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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