BAGHDAD – An explosive device blew up late Thursday night inside the American Institute for English Learning in the holy city of Najaf, adding to concerns about an increase in such attacks in the country.
The blast damaged the facade of the institute without causing any casualties, Iraqi police said in a statement, noting that an investigation has been launched into the incident.
The American Institute is an educational centre that teaches English language. It is not formally affiliated with any institution in the US and all of its employees are Iraqis.
Security forces stand guard near site of the attack on the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP)
Shia militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr warned against targeting cultural and diplomatic sites in Iraq, which he said could lead the country to a “dark tunnel” and into a “spiral of violence.”
“Whoever is behind the attack exposes Iraq and Iraqi to danger,” he added.
Iran-backed militias are suspected of targeting the US presence in Iraq.
Hours before the attack on the English-language site Thursday, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi convoy transporting equipment destined for the US-led coalition in the Babylon governorate without causing any casualties.
Over the past few weeks, attacks targeting the US presence and forces of other countries in the international coalition against ISIS have been on the rise.
Washington accuses armed Iraqi factions linked to Iran of being behind the attacks. Such factions have previously targeted the US embassy and military bases where American soldiers are deployed.
Security forces stand guard after the attack near the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf, Sept. 18. (AP)
Analysts see that these attacks as part of efforts to embarrass the US administration before the November presidential elections, while others see them as aimed at pressuring the Iraqi government to follow through with an earlier vote in parliament demanding the withdrawal of US forces.
Armed Shia militia, including the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, threatened to target American troops in the country if they did not withdraw, in compliance with the Iraqi parliament’s decision.