ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned late Monday that Iraq may shift into “civil war” or witness an internal Shiite conflict if “suspicious parties” continue attacks in the country.
“There are suspicious parties fueling the situation and endangering peaceful security in Iraq,” Sadr tweeted.
Sadr called on all sides to act “wisely” and show love for Iraq “before undertaking any step that would drag the country into civil war or a Shiite vs Shiite clash.”
Sadr has led the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades) militia, part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic), since 2014 and has pushed for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.
His tweet comes after a Katyusha rocket hit a home near Baghdad International Airport on Monday night, killing three children and two women, as injuring two others, according to a statement by Iraqi joint operation command.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has ordered investigations into security forces responsible for security in the area, according to state media.
The US has told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that it will close its Baghdad embassy and withdraw all troops if attacks on foreign actors continue, the Washington Post reported.
Convoys driven by Iraqis and contracted by the US-led coalition have come under almost daily attacks in recent months at the hands of pro-Iranian Shiite militias. Baghdad airport is also frequently targeted, as it hosts a coalition base.
The US Embassy and Iraqi military bases hosting coalition troops have been repeatedly targeted since the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in January.
It is believed that the Iran-backed Islamic Front for Resistance inside Iraq (al-Muqawama) is responsible for the attacks. Its aim is to force US troops to withdraw from the country and units of the group have claimed responsibility for similar attacks.
Diplomatic missions have also come under attack. A British diplomatic vehicle hit an IED in Baghdad earlier this month and a blast at an English-language institute in Najaf’s city centre on September 18 caused substantial material damage.
The attack on the British embassy vehicle was condemned by Sadr and the commander of Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Ali al-Askari.
Diplomatic targets are more often hit by missiles within Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to foreign diplomatic offices and Iraqi government buildings. Two Katyusha rockets fired at the American embassy in mid-September were intercepted by a US air defense system. Three mortars landed in the area last week.