US hits Iran-backed militias in Iraq after attack

Paramilitary groups march in Baghdad (file photo)
Image caption,The US hit sites used by Kataib Hezbollah

By Raffi Berg

BBC News

The US military has attacked Iranian-backed militant groups in Iraq, hours after US personnel were injured in a drone strike on a US airbase there.

The US defence chief said three sites used by Kataib Hezbollah and other groups were hit in response to attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria.

The US strikes were condemned by Iraq as a “clear hostile act”.

The US has repeatedly targeted sites linked to militant groups in Iraq and Syria in recent years.

Iraq says one person was killed and 18 others, including civilians, were injured in the US strikes.

Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said the attacks, which he called “necessary and proportionate”, had been authorised by President Joe Biden.

The drone strike on a US base in Irbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region injured three US military personnel, one critically, US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

A militia collective called Islamic Resistance in Iraq, linked to Kataib Hezbollah, said it was behind the that attack.

The Irbil airbase had previously been hit by rocket attacks carried out by Iranian-linked militia. Kataib Hezbollah, which is financed and armed by Iran, has been one of the most prominent groups involved in attacks on US targets in Iraq. It forms part of the Hashd al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation), an umbrella group of militia which has been integrated into the Iraqi armed forces.

Iraq is an ally of both the US and Iran, which are major foes of one another. The US has about 2,500 soldiers in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to prevent a resurgence there of the Islamic State (IS) group. There are about 900 US military personnel in north-east Syria, also to curb IS, though the Syrian government considers their presence illegal.

Meanwhile, US forces in the Red Sea said they had shot down 12 attack drones, three anti-ship missiles and two cruise missiles fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen on Sunday.

Fighter jets and naval vessels from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group shot down the projectiles over a 10-hour period, the US military’s Central Command said. There was no damage to ships in the area or reported injuries, officials added.

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