Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claimed in remarks published Wednesday that he had escaped several assassination attempts, including one where gunmen tried to shoot down his plane. "There have been several attempts," Maliki told Al-Hayat newspaper.
One of the alleged attempts "was targeting a plane I was flying in while returning from Mosul (northern Iraq) to Baghdad in 2009, but it failed," he said. "A missile was fired against the plane, but thermal decoys diverted it," he added.
"There have been several attempts like this but they have all failed," Maliki said.
The Iraqi leader also warned of a return to sectarian violence as Iraq fails to form a new government, more than two months after elections. "If we build the state in the wrong way, which does not meet the conditions for a (democratic) political process and sharing (of power) in the administration, a return to violence is possible," he said.
The Iraqi leader also voiced confidence in the schedule of withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Asked if he had any doubts over the withdrawal, Maliki replied: "Absolutely not. Iraq has developed its military and intelligence capacities, and has built up a great deal of experience."