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07 February 2024

US drone strike kills Iran-backed militia commander in Baghdad

07 February 2024

A US drone strike has hit a car in the Iraqi capital, killing three members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah militia including a high-ranking commander.

The strike occurred on a main road in the Mashtal neighbourhood in eastern Baghdad.

A crowd gathered as emergency response teams picked through the wreckage. Security forces closed off the heavily guarded Green Zone, where a number of diplomatic compounds are located, amid calls for protesters to storm the US embassy.

A US official said that a senior Kataib Hezbollah commander was targeted in the strike on Wednesday in Iraq.

Two officials with Iran-backed militias in Iraq said that one of the three killed was Wissam Mohammed “Abu Bakr” al-Saadi, the commander in charge of Kataib Hezbollah’s operations in Syria.

The strike came amid tensions in the region and days after the US military launched an air assault on dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for a drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan in late January.

The US has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a broad coalition of Iran-backed militias, for the attack in Jordan, and officials have said they suspect Kataib Hezbollah in particular of leading it.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has regularly claimed strikes on bases housing US troops in Iraq and Syria against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, saying that they are in retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel in its war in Gaza that has killed 27,707 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Kataib Hezbollah said in a statement that it was suspending attacks on American troops to avoid “embarrassing the Iraqi government” after the strike in Jordan, but others have vowed to continue fighting.

The latest surge in the regional conflict came shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected terms proposed by Hamas for a hostage-release agreement that would lead to a permanent ceasefire, vowing to continue the war until “absolute victory”.

Also on Wednesday, the media office of the Houthi rebels in Yemen reported two air strikes in the Ras Issa area in Salif district in Hodeida province.

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