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7 Feb, 2024 21:42

US drone strike kills Iraq-based militia leaders

A senior Kataib Hezbollah leader was reportedly among the dead
US drone strike kills Iraq-based militia leaders

The US carried out a drone strike in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday evening that killed three members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia, including a senior commander. Washington’s Central Command (CENTCOM) has taken responsibility for the attack.

A car in which the trio was traveling was struck in the Mashtal neighborhood of Baghdad, at around 9:30pm local time. Local outlet Sabereen News described the attack as “American aggression.”

Photos circulating on social media showed the remnants of what seems to have been a Hellfire missile, commonly used by US attack drones.

Two of the dead have since been identified as Haj Arkhan Al-Alawi and Wissam Mohammed ‘Abu Bakr’ al-Saadi, who was in charge of Kataib Hezbollah’s operations in Syria. 

In a statement posted on X, (formetly Twitter), CENTCOM said it had carried out “a unilateral strike in Iraq in response to the attacks on US service members, killing a Kataib Hezbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on US forces in the region.”

The US has blamed Kataib Hezbollah for last month’s attack that killed three US soldiers at a base on the Syria-Jordan-Iraq border. Following a series of retaliatory US airstrikes, the group announced it would “suspend” attacks.

Local media in Baghdad have reported that crowds of protesters gathered at the strike site chanting slogans branding the US “Greater Satan.”

Al-Saadi is the most senior Kataib Hezbollah member to have been killed in Iraq since the January 2020 drone strike that killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Tehran had responded to that assassination by bombarding US bases with ballistic missiles.

Shia militias have attacked US bases in the region with rockets and drones at least 150 times since last October, following Israel’s declaration of war on Hamas in the aftermath of the militant group’s deadly raids from Gaza. 

The White House has blamed Tehran for the attacks, but has stopped short of attacking Iran as some members of Congress have demanded. The US has continued to station troops in Iraq even after the government in Baghdad explicitly requested them to leave. The Pentagon’s presence in Syria is illegal under international law. 

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