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Pope Francis calls attack on Iraqi PM ‘vile act of terrorism’

ROME – Pope Francis sent a telegram to Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi following a drone attack against his house, condemning it as a “vile act of terrorism.”

The note, signed by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, but sent at the pontiff’s request, was made public on Tuesday. On Sunday, the prime minister had survived an assassination attempt after drones laden with explosives targeted his residence in the capital, Baghdad.

Francis wanted to convey his “prayerful closeness” to the minister, his family and those wounded.

“In condemning this vile act of terrorism, his holiness once more expresses his confidence that with the blessing of the most high God the people of Iraq will be confirmed in wisdom and strength in pursuing the path of peace through dialogue and fraternal solidarity,” says the message signed by Parolin.

Francis made history earlier this year by becoming the first pope to visit Iraq, considered the land of Abraham. He decided on the trip – the first papal voyage during COVID-19 times – despite the security concerns and the ongoing pandemic.

Security forces in the area of al-Kadhimi’s residence shot down one drone, but a second one hit the target in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies. No group has yet claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack. The incident raises tensions in the country weeks after a general election disputed by Iran-backed militia groups.

Final results of last month’s parliamentary votes have not yet been released, and last Friday pro-Iranian militias took to the streets in large numbers claiming that the process was rigged. The post-election process will include the opening of a new parliament and the election of the next president, parliamentary speaker, and prime minister. Kadhimi could be re-elected.

Moments after the attack the prime minister went to Twitter and called for “calm and restraint from everyone.”

“Thank God, I am fine and among my people,” he tweeted on his official account. He called the attacks as cowardly, saying that they work against a better future for the country.

Cardinal Raphael Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, also condemned the attacks, calling them an attempt to destabilize Iraq. The drone strike, he said, was an attempt to prevent the creation of strong Iraq, with a state “based on the law, citizenship, order and justice.”

“It is not yet known who is behind this but it is clear that the goal was to destabilize [the country], sow confusion and interrupt the work started by the prime minister, who wants to build an Iraq that is not isolated” at the international level, he told Asia News.

Since the election, tensions have been rising, leading the Chaldean Church to call for a strong government to end the violence and chaos that could plunge the country into the abyss.

Following the attack, during his Sunday Mass, Sako also said that “among the faithful, there is great sadness over the attack, but also happiness that he was safe. Many believe that his push for reform is genuine and good for the country.”

“So far he has never resorted to the use of force to solve problems;” instead, “he is calling for dialogue and coming together even with his enemies and political adversaries.”

“I call on all Christians in Iraq to pray for the good of the country,” the prelate urged. Christians should “wait calmly and confidently, not be carried away by tensions, and remain a source of stability.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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