Blast targets 'American' English school in southern Iraq

©Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

An improvised explosive device blew up outside an English-language institute in southern Iraq early Friday without causing any casualties, Iraqi police said in a statement, amid a recent uptick in attacks targeting the American presence in Iraq.

The blast damaged the facade of the American Institute for English Learning in the holy city of Najaf, a statement from the province's police directorate said.

The school is not formally affiliated with any institutions in the US. It was believed to to have been targeted because it offered English-language lessons to Iraqis. No Americans were employed there.

Attacks targeting the US presence have been on the rise since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi traveled to Washington last month to conclude strategic talks.

The attacks have put pressure on his administration, which has promised to reign in armed groups acting outside of state authority.

The recent attacks come as al-Kadhimi introduced sweeping administrative changes, including naming a new governor of Iraq's Central Bank, which provoked criticism from some political blocs.

Rocket attacks routinely target the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government, where the US Embassy is located.

Roadside bombs also often hit convoys carrying materials destined for the US military.

Hours before Friday's attack on the English-language center, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi convoy transporting equipment headed for the US-led coalition without causing any losses.

Last week, a roadside bomb targeted a British diplomatic convoy in Baghdad, without causing any casualties.

There are more than 5,000 American troops in Iraq now. Last month, the top US general for the Middle East said he believed the US will keep a smaller but enduring presence in the country.

US troops were sent to the country in 2014 at the request of the Iraqi government after the Islamic State group took over the north and pushed towards Baghdad.

The US task force played a key role in the defeat of IS in Iraq and Syria, but tensions soon heightened after attacks on American troops by Iran-backed militias and the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

This led the Iraqi parliament to vote in January for the withdrawal of all American troops from the country.

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