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Blast targets 'American' English school in southern Iraq

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 U.S. It was believed to to have been targeted because it offered English-language lessons to Iraqis. No Americans were employed there.

Security forces stand guard near site of an attack on the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. An IED attack on the American Institute for English Learning in southern Iraq caused major damage without casualties in the early hours on Friday. according to Iraq security officials. (AP PhotoAnmar Khalil)

Attacks targeting the U.S. presence have been on the rise since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi traveled to Washington last month to conclude strategic talks. Rocket attacks routinely target the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government, where the U.S. Embassy is located.

Roadside bombs also often hit convoys carrying materials destined for the U.S. military. Hours before Friday's attack on the English-language center, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi convoy transporting equipment headed for the U.S.-led coalition without causing any losses.

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

Security forces stand guard near the site of an attack on the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. An IED attack on the American Institute for English Learning in southern Iraq caused major damage without casualties in the early hours on Friday. according to Iraq security officials. (AP PhotoAnmar Khalil)

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