Militants attack US and UK-affiliated businesses in Baghdad

Two stun grenades exploded at the American company Caterpillar's branch and the British Cambridge Institute in the Iraqi capital

The Iraqi capital was hit by two simultaneous stun grenade explosions, one of them here at the British Cambridge Institute. Photo: Baghdad Operations Command
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Unknown militants attacked US and UK-linked businesses in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday morning, the government said.

Two stun grenades exploded at the headquarters and showroom of the local dealer for the American company Caterpillar in Baghdad’s Jadriyah neighbourhood, and the British Cambridge Institute in Palestine Street, the Iraq Security Media Cell said.

Both explosions, which caused only material damage, occurred at 1.30am, it added. No casualties were reported.

“Such actions are a desperate attempt to harm Iraq’s reputation, the direction of reconstruction and providing services to citizens,” the statement added.

It vowed that security forces will “pursue and reach anyone who disrupts security and social peace, and violates the law and public or private properties”.

The explosions are the latest in a series of what are seen as orchestrated attacks by militants against US and UK businesses in Baghdad in the past week.

On Saturday, two gunmen threw a bomb at the Palestine Street branch of US fast-food franchise Kentucky Fried Chicken. It only caused minor damage, the Interior Ministry said.

The following day, a KFC branch in Jadriyah, an upscale neighbourhood, was stormed by masked armed assailants, it added.

On Monday, Interior Minister Abdul Amir Al Shammari announced the arrest of a number of suspects and ordered “the punishment of negligent security forces”.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they came amid calls by Iran-backed military and political factions to boycott US and UK business and products over the countries' support of Israel in its war in Gaza.

US ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski condemned the attacks and urged the Iraqi government to conduct a "thorough investigation, bring to justice those who are responsible, and prevent further attacks".

"These attacks endanger Iraqi lives and property, and could weaken Iraq's ability to attract foreign investment," Ms Romanowski added in a statement on social media platform X.

Jadiriyah is one of the vibrant commercial areas of Baghdad, home to the headquarters of Iran-backed Shiite militias and political parties. Palestine Street is in the eastern part of the capital where militias are also active.

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has also recently called for the US embassy in Baghdad to be closed. His supporters gathered this week outside the Pepsi factory in the capital's south-eastern district of Zafaraniyah, demanding its closure.

Iraq's security and political stability has improved in recent years, encouraging foreign companies and investors to seek a foothold in its markets.

Several multinational chains and foreign companies have opened branches in Baghdad and other cities, including KFC, Hardee’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Cinnabon.

In April, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sundani paid a week-long visit to the US to boost bilateral ties beyond military co-operation.

He held meetings with US companies and investors, promising them a safe environment to open businesses.

Updated: May 30, 2024, 12:14 PM