Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi narrowly escaped an attempt on his life by a drone laden with explosives that hit his residence in Baghdad early on Sunday, with condemnations pouring in from across the world in support of stability and security of the country.
Mr Al Kadhimi was slightly wounded on his left wrist in the attack, two security sources told The National. At least five of his guards were also injured.
At about 2.30am, three drones entered the heavily fortified Green Zone, where government buildings, foreign embassies and the residences of senior officials are sited, the security sources said.
Two of the drones were shot down, while the third hit Mr Al Kadhimi’s home before heading for the north-western, Shiite-majority Hurriyah district, they said. An unexploded rocket was found later on the rooftop.
The failed assassination attempt came after pro-militia groups staged protests in the Iraqi capital against the results of October elections. Supporters of parties that lost in the polls have been threatening Mr Al Kadhimi for weeks.
The National Security Council vowed to bring all the parties involved to account.
“The cowardly and terrorist attack on the residence of the prime minister and commander of armed forces in order to assassinate him dangerously targets the Iraqi state,” the council was reported as saying by the state Iraqi News Agency, after a meeting led by Mr Al Kadhimi.
“The attack was carried out by criminal armed groups,” it said.
President Barham Salih condemned the attempt as a “terrorist aggression”. It was a dangerous breach “and a heinous crime against Iraq”, Mr Salih said on Twitter.
He called for “unity to face the devils who want to harm the security of this country and the safety of its people”.
“We reject dragging Iraq into chaos and the coup against its constitutional regime,” he said.
Soon after the attack, Mr Al Kadhimi appeared in a video on his Twitter account and said he was safe. He called for calm and urged all sides to take part in “a constructive dialogue for Iraq and its future”.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But an investigation has been opened to identify the launching point of the drones, armed forces spokesman Yehya Rassoul said.
The leader of a powerful militia implied the attack had been fabricated, calling for a specialist technical committee to look into the incident.
“If the attack was real and and not accidental then we condemn it openly and those who carried it out should be pursued and brought to justice,” Qais Khazali, the leader of the militant group Asaib Ahl Al Haq, said on Twitter.
Security sources told The National that the drones used in the assault on the prime minister’s residence were similar to Iranian-made drones that have been used in previous attacks in Iraq.
Western diplomats based in the Green Zone said they heard explosions and gunfire in the area.
The US was quick to condemn the attack.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn, was directed at the heart of the Iraqi state. 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.”
“Our commitment to our Iraqi partners is unshakeable,” he said in the early hours of Sunday.
The UAE also condemned the attack in the strongest terms, expressing its solidarity with Iraq and support in the face of terrorism.
The UN special mission to Iraq decried the assassination attempt in the “strongest terms”, expressing relief that Mr Al Kadhimi was unhurt.
“Terrorism, violence and unlawful acts must not be allowed to undermine Iraq’s stability and derail its democratic process,” the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq said. It called for calm and restraint.
“Unami strongly encourages all sides to take responsibility for de-escalation and to engage in dialogue to ease political tensions, upholding the national interest of Iraq,” it said.
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, the clear victor in last month’s elections, spoke to Mr Al Kadhimi soon after the attack.
The incident is “an act of terror that targeted the highest authority in the country; this is a clear attack on Iraq and its people, its safety and security”, he said.
He said Iraq’s security forces “must control the situation so that Iraq can recover and come back strong”.
According to preliminary tallies, the Fataj bloc of politicians and militia commanders linked to Tehran won about 15 of the 329 seats in Parliament, down from the 48 it held previously. Its tally made it the second-largest bloc.
The big winner, with more than 70 seats, was the movement of Mr Al Sadr, a Shiite preacher who campaigned as a nationalist and critic of Iran.
Some Shiite militias and parties have rejected the initial results, accusing the Independent High Electoral Commission of fraud.
For weeks, their supporters have been protesting outside the Green Zone, demanding a manual recount of all votes.
The Commission has been recounting more than 2,000 ballot boxes from various parts of Iraq for which appeals have been accepted. The manual count has not matched the initial results.
On Friday, clashes erupted between security forces and the protesters who tried to advance to the Green Zone, killing two protesters and wounding more than 100 others, including security personnel.