Middle East

US says it killed leader of pro-Iran group Kataeb Hezbollah in Baghdad drone strike

An American air strike in Iraq killed a commander of a pro-Iran armed group Wednesday who was involved in attacks on Washington’s troops, the US military said. 

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The strike came “in response to the attacks on US service members” and killed “a Kataeb Hezbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on US forces in the region,” the military‘s Central Command said on social media.

“There are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties at this time,” it added.

The attack comes as tensions soar with the United States carrying out strikes on pro-Iran groups in Iraq and Syria amid the war in the Gaza Strip.

A member of the pro-Iran Iraqi group earlier confirmed to AFP on condition of anonymity that one of those killed was a commander of Kataeb Hezbollah in charge of military affairs in Syria.

The security source also reported the deaths of two other officials from Kataeb Hezbollah, which has taken part in the past in attacks on US forces in Iraq.

Read moreWhat is Kataeb Hezbollah, the militia accused of killing American soldiers in Jordan?

The drone strike comes nearly a week after the United States struck 85 targets at seven different sites in Iraq and neighbouring Syria of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces.

Those strikes were in retaliation for an attack at the end of January on a base in Jordan that killed three US soldiers.

US and allied troops have been attacked more than 165 times in the Middle East since mid-October in a campaign waged by Iran-backed armed groups angered by US support for Israel in the war in Gaza.

Earlier a security source said the drone had fired three rockets at a 4X4 car in the east Baghdad neighbourhood of Machtal that targeted two officials from the Kataeb Hezbollah.

Another security official had said the vehicle carried an official from Hashed al-Shaabi, a coalition of mainly pro-Iran paramilitaries now integrated into Iraq’s regular security forces.

An AFP photographer said security forces deployed in the neighbourhood barring access to it after the attack.

The Hashed al-Shaabi has said that 16 of its fighters were killed in Friday’s US strikes and 36 people wounded. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said at least 23 pro-Iranian fighters were killed in Syria.

“Targeting the Hashed al-Shaabi is playing with fire,” the group’s leader Faleh al-Fayyad warned on Sunday.

The United States and Iraq have opened talks on the future of the US-led troop presence in January, following a request by the Iraqi prime minister for a timetable for their withdrawal.

The United States has some 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq as part of an international coalition against the Islamic State group.

Its troops in Iraq are deployed at the invitation of Baghdad, but those in Syria are deployed in areas outside government control.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP) 

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