Baghdad — Assailants fatally shot an American aid worker Monday in a rare killing of a foreigner in the Iraqi capital in recent years, two police officials said. The man was shot in his car as he entered the street where he lives in Baghdad’s central Karrada district on the east bank of the Tigris River. The police said the man’s wife and child were in the car with him but were not hurt.
The motive for the killing was not immediately clear, the officials said, but an unknown group reportedly claimed responsibility on Tuesday, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. airstrike more than two years ago that killed two-linked commanders.
The officials said as the man drove through his street, a car cut him off and assailants in another car shot him dead. It was not immediately clear if the assailants were trying to kidnap the man, they said.
Spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday that the U.S. State Department was looking into the reports of the killing of a U.S. aid worker in Baghdad. He said the department could not yet confirm the death or that the person in question was a U.S. citizen.
Iraqi security officials provided images of the man’s identification cards indicating that he was a U.S. citizen, but CBS News has withheld his identity pending confirmation that his relatives have been informed. According to documents seen by The Associated Press, the man had been renting an apartment in Karrada’s Wahda area since May last year.
A little known group calling itself the Ahl al-Kahf Brigades issued a claim of responsibility on Tuesday for the murder of the American man, according to Iraqi media reports. The group was said to have claimed the attack as retaliation for the killing of senior Iranian military commander and Iraqi paramilitary commander , who was the deputy head of a pro-Iran group, who were both killed in the same U.S. airstrike at the beginning of 2020.
U.S. Embassy officials, when contacted by The Associated Press, could not immediately provide any information about the case.
Two Iraqi security officials confirmed a U.S. citizen who worked for an international aid organization had been killed, without giving his name. They said details were scarce but an investigation was underway. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
A medical worker at Sheikh Zayed Hospital, where the victim was taken, said he was dead on arrival.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said he would form a committee comprising the interior ministry and various security agencies to “investigate the circumstances of the killing of an American citizen in the capital.”
The streets of the middle class, mixed Christian and Muslim neighborhood where the victim reportedly lived were empty of residents but heavily patrolled by police on Monday night.
Such attacks against individuals in the Iraqi capital have been rare since the defeat ofin the country in 2017, but rockets are sometimes fired toward the U.S. Embassy.
In the early years that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, such attacks were common. In 2004, two Americans were kidnapped in Baghdad and extremists later released videos showing their beheading.
The attack came after Iraq’s new cabinet, headed by Prime Minister al-Sudani, was given a vote of confidence by parliament in late October.
The country held early elections more than a year ago
U.S.-led coalition forces recently ended their combat mission in Iraq but they continue to play an advisory role to Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS.