US targets senior Iranian-backed militia official in Iraq

The U.S. said Wednesday it killed in Iraq a senior commander with the Iranian-backed militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah who was involved in planning attacks on American troops.

The commander was killed during a strike that took place around 9:30 p.m. local time, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

“The United States will continue to take necessary action to protect our people,” CENTCOM said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to hold responsible all those who threaten our forces’ safety.”

CENTCOM said there were no civilian casualties or collateral damage from the strike.

The strike hit a car in a busy section of eastern Baghdad, killing the commander and two other Kataib Hezbollah officials, according to The Associated Press.

Pro-Iranian statements on Telegram and on state-run media channels named the slain commander as  “Abu Bakr” al-Saadi, a high-ranking Kataib Hezbollah official.

The strike is the latest U.S. military action against Iranian-backed militia groups and the first attack in Iraq since Washington hit more than 85 targets last week across Iraq and Syria in response to the death of three American troops in Jordan in late January, which the Biden administration said was carried out by Iranian proxies.

Last week’s strikes, conducted by B-1 bomber planes, targeted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iranian-backed militia groups. While the U.S. action was meant to deter more aggression, the Iranian proxies have continued attacking American and allied bases in the region.

The U.S. officially blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq for the deadly attack in Jordan. But the Pentagon also suggested that Kataib Hezbollah may have been behind the attack, with deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh saying the attack had the “footprints” of the militia group.

After the Jordan attack, Kataib Hezbollah said it was suspending military operations against American forces in Iraq to avoid embarrassment to the Iraqi government.

The U.S. has continued to carry out strikes in Iraq despite repeated condemnation from the Iraqi government, which is engaged in ongoing talks with Washington on the future of the American military presence in the country.

The U.S. also killed a senior Iranian-backed militia group leader from a group separate from Kataib Hezbollah in early January.

Iranian-backed groups have attacked U.S. troops more than 160 times in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since Oct. 17, which the militia groups say is in response to American support for the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza that broke out on Oct. 7.

Updated at 4:51 p.m.

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