Iraq says the drone strike was aimed at the Prime Minister

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BAGHDAD – Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survived an assassination attempt with armed drones that targeted his residence last Sunday, according to officials who said he was unharmed.

Two Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that seven of Mr. al-Kadhimi were injured in the attack, which involved two armed drones and occurred in Baghdad’s fortified green zone. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to make official statements.

“The rockets of betrayal will not shake an iota of the steadfastness and determination of the heroic security forces”, Mr. al-Kadhimi said on Twitter shortly after the attack. “I’m fine and among my people. Thanks God. “

The attack appeared to be a serious escalation of tensions provoked by the refusal of the Iranian-backed militias to accept the results of parliamentary elections last month.

In a statement, the Iraqi government said drones had targeted Mr. al-Kadhimi’s home. Baghdad residents heard the sound of an explosion followed by gunfire from the management of the Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and government offices.

The government statement, released by state media, said the failed assassination attempt occurred with “an explosive-laden drone attempting to target his residence in the Green Zone.”

“The security forces are taking the necessary measures in relation to this failed attempt,” he said.

It was not clear who was behind the attack, nor did anyone immediately claim responsibility.

It came amidst a standoff between security forces and pro-Iranian Shiite militias whose supporters have been camped outside the Green Zone for nearly a month, since they rejected the results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections, in which they were the biggest losers.

“The assassination attempt is a dramatic escalation, crossing a line in an unprecedented way that could have violent repercussions,” Ranj Alaaldin, a non-resident colleague at the Brookings Institution, said in a Twitter post.

The protests turned deadly on Friday as protesters marched into the Green Zone. There was a firefight in which a militia-affiliated protester was killed. Dozens of members of the security forces were injured. Mr. al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation to determine what incited the fighting and who violated the order not to open fire.

Some of the leaders of the most powerful militia factions loyal to Iran openly accused al-Kadhimi of Friday’s clashes and the demonstrator’s death.

“The blood of the martyrs is to hold you accountable,” Qais al-Khazali, militia leader Asaib Ahl al-Haq said, addressing Mr. al-Kadhimi at a funeral held for the protester.

The funeral was attended by leaders of mostly Iranian-backed Shiite factions that together are known as People’s Mobilization Forces, or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic.

The United States, the United Nations Security Council and others praised October 10 elections, which was mostly violence-free and without major technical problems.

But after the vote, militia supporters pitched tents near the Green Zone, rejecting election results and threatening violence unless their demands for a recount were met.

Unfounded claims of election fraud have cast a shadow over the vote. The standoff with militia supporters has also increased tensions between rival Shia factions that could threaten Iraq’s regained relative stability.

The elections took place months ahead of schedule in response to mass protests in late 2019, which saw tens of thousands of people in Baghdad and the predominantly Shia southern provinces rally against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment. They also protested neighboring Iran’s heavy interference in Iraqi affairs through Iranian-backed militias.

The militias have lost some of their popularity since the 2018 vote when they made big electoral gains. Many hold them responsible for cracking down on the 2019 protests and challenging the authority of the state.

The biggest gains were made by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc won the most parliamentary seats, 73 out of 329. Although he maintains good relations with Iran, al-Sadr publicly opposes outside interference in Iraq’s affairs.

The protests appeared to be aimed at putting pressure on Mr. al-Sadr to ensure that Iranian-aligned factions are part of the next government. As the winner, the al-Sadr bloc will seek coalition partners and appoint the prime minister.

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