Iraq PM Abadi survives assassination attempt

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has survived an assassination attempt. Mr Abadi was wounded in the chest and stomach when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his car as he was returning to Baghdad from…

Iraq PM Abadi survives assassination attempt

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has survived an assassination attempt.

Mr Abadi was wounded in the chest and stomach when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his car as he was returning to Baghdad from visiting Anbar.

US-led air strikes later hit and destroyed two vehicles involved in the attack, the Iraqi government said.

The prime minister’s security guards were also injured but escaped with minor injuries.

Earlier reports said that Mr Abadi had been travelling at a slow speed but this was later denied by his office.

Mr Abadi’s convoy was ambushed by gunfire from three separate gunmen at about 1700 (1700 GMT) on Sunday.

The prime minister’s driver and bodyguard were the two people injured in the attack.

“An ambulance carrying the prime minister arrived at the American-Iraqi medical base,” Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan told Reuters news agency.

“Two hours later and an air force helicopter arrived to help send the injured to other hospitals.”

The explosion shook the neighbouring streets of the popular Iyadh al-Ghad district, witnesses told al-Arabiya television.

‘Huge punch’

An ISIS (Islamic State) militant told Reuters that his unit had been behind the attack.

A second armed group said it had destroyed two of the cars believed to have been used in the assassination attempt.

Mr Abadi described the attack as a cowardly one.

Abu Abbas, a resident of Al-Ghad, told the Associated Press news agency that he saw the gunman’s car explode as a car bomb, sending a huge punch into the nearby houses.

Some of the two gunmen who attacked the prime minister were killed in the attack, said Haider Abdul Jabbar, a member of the provincial council in Anbar.

The US was quick to distance itself from the attack.

“The fact that Prime Minister Abadi escaped an assassination attempt speaks to his strength and his courage,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Anbar is in the centre of Iraq and has been besieged by ISIS fighters since 2014.

Mr Abadi was injured during a visit to the province on Sunday.

ISIS militants overran a third of Iraq in 2014, displacing millions of people and pushing the country to the verge of civil war.

Under pressure from a US-led coalition, the extremist group lost much of that territory but a resurgence has raised concern for Iraq’s stability.

The government took control of most of Anbar province in 2016 and says it is continuing to retake smaller pockets of ISIS-held territory.

Last week, Iraqi troops launched an offensive to seize a strategic air base in Anbar from ISIS.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s attack, senior parliamentarian Samih al-Mutlaq expressed “solidarity” with Mr Abadi.

“It is a continuation of terrorists’ dirty and cowardly acts,” he told Reuters.

‘Troublemakers’

After the attack, US-led coalition spokeswoman Col Mary Rook said the airstrike had destroyed one ISIS bomb-making site.

“The coalition was notified as soon as the attack began,” she said in a statement.

“The coalition’s success in identifying, locating, and killing the terrorists behind the attack remains the same.”

But Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi was quoted by local media as saying the drone had shot down two cars and the US had revealed those responsible for the attack.

In December, Mr Abadi described an assault on Iraq’s capital as an attempt to “carry out a wave of terror” which could start in Anbar and “spread like wildfire across the country”.

Speaking in December, he warned that “terrorists” could target “innocent people, leaders and members of the police and army”.

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