Iraqi officials are reportedly blaming an Iran-backed militia group for the assassination attempt of Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Reuters reported on Monday, citing Iraqi security officials and militia sources, that the three-drone assassination attempt was carried out by Iran-supported groups that are angry about last month’s parliamentary elections, in which Iran-backed groups suffered the biggest losses and saw their power in parliament decrease.
Iraqi officials and analysts told Reuters that the attack was meant to show that the militias are open to utilizing violence if they are kept out of the government, or if their control over large swaths of the state is contested.
Two Iraqi security officials told the news wire that Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq are behind the attack, and a militia source told the news wire that Kataib Hezbollah played a role in the incident but could not confirm the involvement of Asaib.
Two regional officials told Reuters that Tehran was aware of the assassination attempt before it took place, but contended that authorities in the country did not call for the attack.
Militia sources told the news wire that the commander of the Quds Force, which is part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, made a trip to Iraq on Sunday following the attack to communicate with paramilitary leaders and encourage them not to gin up any more acts of violence.
Sources and independent analysts, however, told Reuters that it is unlikely Iran ordered the assassination attempt because the country has been working to prevent violence on its western border.
No parties have claimed responsibility for the attack yet, and the Iran-associated groups nor the Iranian government responded to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Three armed drones targeted al-Kadhimi Sunday morning, two of which were intercepted and downed by security forces. The third drone, however, struck the prime minister’s residence.
The prime minister was not injured, but six members of his personal protection team were. They were reportedly on the exterior of the prime minister’s residence in the Green Zone.
Al-Kadhimi chaired a security meeting later that day.
The assassination attempt followed last month’s parliamentary elections, where the pro-Iran Shiite militias were the largest losers. They have since been pushing against the results, contending that the vote was riddled with fraud.
Sunday’s attack increased tensions in Iraq, Reuters noted, which were already fairly high amid the election fallout.
An Iraqi security official told Reuters that the drones used in the assassination attempt were “quadcopter type, and each had a projectile that was armed with high explosives that are powerful enough to desecrate buildings and armed vehicles.
That Iranian-made drone and explosives, according to the official, is the same that was used in the attack on U.S. forces in Iraq earlier this year, which the U.S. has argued Iran-backed militias were behind, including Kataib Hezbollah.
The U.S. slapped sanctions on Iran’s drone program last month.
President Biden condemned the attack in a statement, and said he ordered his national security team to offer “all appropriate assistance to Iraq’s security forces as they investigate this attack and identify those responsible.”
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