A drone attack on the home of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has been thwarted by security forces, but not before it caused damage to a nearby building. The incident took place in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and is believed to have been carried out by Islamic State militants.
A quadcopter dropped a bomb on the roof of the Council of Ministers building while Abadi was inside, heading a meeting of his new cabinet ministers, Reuters reports , citing security officials. The attack did not cause any casualties or disrupt meetings but further cements Baghdad’s status as a prime target for ISIS, which was recently driven out of the city by Iraqi forces.
Abadi had previously ordered the military to shoot at armed drones used by ISIS, although it is not yet clear how effective this response was. The drone that caused damage on Sunday morning may have been operated by a militant who managed to escape and pass information back to Islamic State forces after Iraqi troops opened fire.
Not much is known about the capabilities of the improvised explosive device carried by the drone, except that it is small enough to fit in a backpack. The bomb did not cause any casualties but did cause damage to paintwork on one of the ministerial offices.
Risk analysts IHS Markit say drones operated by ISIS have been primarily used for surveillance purposes so far, but they are now likely to include explosives as jihadists look for new ways to cause bloodshed.
This is a clear sign that IS sees government buildings as valuable targets and will go after them with everything at their disposal , said Yan St-Pierre, from the Modern Security Consulting Group based in Germany. In this case, they used a drone but they could smuggle in a bomb in the next one, they could use an RPG in the same way.
The prospect of drones being used to carry out attacks in Baghdad was forecast by experts late last year. According to IHS Markit, the number of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – which includes small commercial and military drones – imported into Iraq jumped 1,859 percent from January to September last year as IS militants made advances in the country.
The increase was largely attributed to fears that drones would be used for attacks, but IHS Markit senior defence analyst Columb Strack said it is not just Baghdad that needs to worry about such tactics: The primary threat will come from ISIS and similar groups, which will look to use the technology as a means of carrying out attacks that combine mass lethality and psychological impact .
The growing number of drones entering Iraq has changed the security situation in Baghdad – and we can expect it to continue – but this alone does not mean more worries for the Iraqi capital. The UASs themselves are simply not capable of carrying out attacks on a larger scale – yet.
A recent video by the Washington Post showed a small commercial drone increasing its payload capacity from 2kg to 15kg without any visible changes to its size or shape . This amounted to a 907 percent increase in weight, which is still well below what IS could be using.