Masked gunmen who attacked the Al Arabiya office in Baghdad on Saturday could be linked to Iran according to expert opinion.
The gunmen, wearing black clothes and masks to hide their faces, have yet to be identified. While the attackers are unknown thus far, experts are weighing in on who could be behind the masks.
“Countless groups, not least of which pro-Iran forces, could be behind the attack,” Behnam ben Taleblu, senior fellow on Iranian security and political issues at the American think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Al Arabiya English.
“While it’s too soon to tell, this could be a symbolic attack by pro-Iran forces to deflect attention from the central government’s mismanagement of the economy and close ties to Iran. Attacking a Saudi sponsored media station could be one way to deflect blame,” said Taleblu.
CCTV footage of the attack shows the gunmen smashing office equipment and cellphones, injuring several people working in the office.
Former Senior Advisor to US Central Command Nader Uskowi said in a tweet that the assault was perpetrated “likely by Iran[ian] proxies.”
Assaulting the staff and sabotaging the equipment of Al Arabiya bureau in Baghdad - likely by Iran proxies. 5 October 2019 https://t.co/aNXeOsMtWX— Nader Uskowi (@nuskowi) October 6, 2019
According to Majid Hamid, Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Baghdad, the attack took place at 10 pm on Saturday when masked gunmen arriving in three black cars forced themselves into the bureau.
“The masked gunmen and were wearing military gear. They assaulted four of our colleagues who were present in the building. They suffered bruises and one of our colleagues broke his hand as a result of the attack,” Hamid told Al Arabiya English.
Hamid then said that security forces at a nearby checkpoint failed to intervene to stop the attack.
“Members of the federal police declined assistance to us during the attack,” the correspondent said, adding that the Al Arabiya office had received threats in recent days.
Iraq’s president, speaker of the parliament, and the judiciary said that authorities are opening an investigation into the attacks on media outlets, including Al Arabiya, and said in a statement that they emphasize on the need to protect journalists working in the country. Their joint-statement released on Sunday also stressed on the need to protect the freedom of opinion and expression.
The attack on Al Arabiya’s Baghdad office comes as Iraq is in turmoil following violent protests, which have seen 51 public buildings and eight political party headquarters torched by protestors, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Saad Maan.
Maan said on Sunday that at least 104 people have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded in the last week.