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12 Mar, 2020 22:38

US confirms bombing Iraq’s Shia Kata’eb Hezbollah militia after rocket strike at base near Baghdad killed 2 troops

US confirms bombing Iraq’s Shia Kata’eb Hezbollah militia after rocket strike at base near Baghdad killed 2 troops

US aircraft bombed five Shia militia targets in Iraq in retaliation for the earlier deaths of two US service members and a British nurse in a rocket attack on Camp Taji near Baghdad.

"Earlier this evening, the United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) facilities across Iraq. These strikes targeted five weapon storage facilities to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks against Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces," the US Department of Defense said in a statement, confirming multiple reports on social media.

Branding the raids "defensive and proportional," it said that the sorties were launched in "direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups."

Earlier in the day, the Pentagon blamed the “Iran-backed” Iraqi Shia militias for Wednesday’s rocket strike, which killed three and wounded 14 more people.

Kata’eb Hezbollah is one of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias that the US has blamed for attacks on its forces in Iraq. 

Iraqi Security Media Cell, affiliated with the military, has confirmed that the strikes targeted PMF headquarters and warehouses, amid reports that the militia suffered heavy casualties during the raids.

There were even unconfirmed reports that among them was General Siamand Mashhadani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Photos have emerged purporting to show the impact of the airstrikes on the Karbala International Airport, still under construction in Shia-majority Karbala governorate in central Iraq.

Thursday’s attack follows a series of airstrikes against PMF positions in Iraq’s Anbar province and just across the border in Syria on Wednesday, which were blamed on the US by local media outlets but never confirmed by the Pentagon.

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper said earlier in the day that he was given the authority “to do what we need to do” from US President Donald Trump, without elaborating further.

A total of 18 rockets struck Camp Taji on Wednesday, killing two US troops – whose names have not been made public yet – and one British army nurse, identified since as Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon. The base, located 27km north of Baghdad, is used by the US coalition to train Iraqi security forces.

The PMF are mainly composed of Iraqi Shia militiamen who have fought alongside the mainly Sunni Iraqi army, and have been formally recognized as a part of it since March 2018. The US considers them Iranian proxies, because they have received military and financial support from Tehran during the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists.

Also on rt.com Trump authorizes Pentagon 'to do what we need to do' after deadly attack on US & UK troops in Iraq – Defense Secretary Esper

The PMF were also blamed for the attack on the K-1 base outside of Kirkuk in December, which killed one US military contractor. This triggered an escalation spiral, with US launching reprisal strikes, the PMF attempting to storm the US Embassy in Baghdad, Trump ordering the drone assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and Iran responding to that by launching ballistic missiles against two US bases inside Iraq.

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