Baghdad, Iraq Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi escaped an assassination attempt on Sunday after an explosive-laden drone targeted his residence in Baghdad, the country’s military said.
Al-Kadhimi went on to Twitter moments after the attack and called for “calm and restraint from everyone.”
“Thank God, I am fine and among my people,” he tweeted on his official account.
He called the attacks cowardly, saying that they work against a better future for the country. Al-Kadhimi called for calm and constructive dialogue “for the sake of Iraq and the future of Iraq.”
“I was and still am a redemption project for Iraq and the people of Iraq. The missiles of treachery will not discourage the believers and will shake a hair of the stability and determination of our heroic security forces to preserve people’s security, achieve justice and set the law in place,” he said.
Seven of Kadhimi’s security personnel were injured, according to Ministry of Interior Spokesman General Saad Maan, speaking to the state-run Al-Iraqiya news network.
He clarified that only two armed drones were involved in the assassination attempt and that they had been launched from around 12km northeast of Baghdad.
One of the drones was shot down by the Iraqi military, Maan said.
The Iraqi military said that Al-Kadhimi was unharmed and in good health, and that security forces were “taking the necessary measures in connection with this failed attempt.”
A source close to the Iraqi leader said Sunday that Al-Kadhimi was returning from overseeing security forces engaged in a stand-off with protesters at the southern gate of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area of Baghdad where the the Prime Minister’s residence and other government and diplomatic buildings are located, around the time of the drone attack.
As he was just entering his residence, a booby-trapped drone targeted that location, causing minor damage, the source said.
The US State Department condemned the “apparent act of terrorism” in a statement on Sunday. “We are in close touch with the Iraqi security forces charged with upholding Iraq’s sovereignty and independence and have offered our assistance as they investigate this attack,” spokesperson Ned Price said.
The President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, also released a statement condemning the failed assassination attempt, calling it a “terrorist act” that marks a “dangerous development that threatens security and stability in the country and portends dire consequences.”
“I invite everyone to exercise restraint and calm down,” KRG President Nechirvan Barani in a statement early Sunday.
The influential Shia Muslim cleric and head of the powerful Sadrist Movement Moqtada al-Sadr called the incident a “terrorist act” that “returns [Iraq] to a state of chaos to be controlled by non-governmental forces, so that Iraq lives under the pain of riots, violence and terrorism, so that dangers and interventions from outside swept it from here and there.”
As a result of the attempt, he said, “our valiant army and the heroic security forces must take matters into their own hands until Iraq recovers and returns strong.”
Al-Sadr and his coalition won more than 70 seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections held two weeks ago, gaining significant numbers since the last elections in 2018, when they won 54 seats.
The Arab League, an organization of 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), condemned the “heinous assassination attempt” in a statement on Sunday and said that its Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit spoke with al-Khadimi by phone.
“Aboul Gheit said that assassination is the means of cowards, and that the perpetrators of this incident wish to drag the country into the furnace of strife, and ignite a spark of civil chaos in the country — and that Iraq, its people and its leadership are able to overcome this difficult stage with cohesion and national solidarity, and reject terrorism, militia and violence,” the statement read.
The league also stressed that the recent elections “represented an important shift towards stability in the country” and called on all parties to “respect their results, and to work within the framework of the constitution, the law and the rules of the democratic political game.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt, but it comes amid heightened tensions in the capital.
On Friday, one person was killed and dozens were wounded after supporters of Iran-backed militias clashed with Iraqi security forces near the Green Zone, health officials told .
Parties representing Iran-backed militias called for protests after losing parliament seats during Iraq’s elections last month, angering militia leaders and sparking several protests and sit-ins over the past weeks.
Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iranian-backed Shia militia groups in Iraq, denied any involvement in the assassination attempt on the prime minister on Sunday, while also questioning the government’s take on the attack in a statement released by spokesman Abu Ali al-Askari.
Al-Askari said that Al-Kadhimi is “playing the victim,” adding there are “less expensive” and more guaranteed ways to cause harm to the prime minister — if that were the goal.
“Isn’t it ironic that he calls for restraint and calm, so who should be worried? Who has lost control of himself?” al-Askari said in a statement on Sunday.
In a no-holds bar jab at the Prime Minister, al-Askari added: “May God curse you and those who help you.”
Meanwhile, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani condemned the assassination attempt, saying in a tweet on Sunday that the incident must be “traced back to foreign think tanks (or agencies)” that have “brought nothing but insecurity, discord, and instability to the oppressed Iraqi people through the creation and support of terrorist groups and occupation of this country for years.”