The government in Baghdad has condemned the United States for a series of air raids which killed eight Iran-backed fighters, saying it violated Iraqi sovereignty.
The US did not coordinate the attacks on militia positions south of Baghdad on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning with Iraq, government spokesman Bassem al-Awadi said. The strikes constitute an “unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty”, he added.
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Pro-Iran militia Kataib Hezbollah, also known as Hezbollah Brigades, confirmed on Wednesday that eight of its fighters were killed in the US strikes. It warned in a statement that the attacks “will not go unpunished”.
US Central Command said the strikes were retaliation for “attacks against US and coalition forces by Iran and Iran-backed groups”.
US positions under fire
The strikes are the first the US has announced against Iran-backed forces in Iraq since those groups launched a flurry of attacks against US targets in response to Washington’s support for Israel in the ongoing Gaza war.
Washington has, however, targeted Iran-backed groups in neighbouring Syria, where its positions have also been under fire.
Since the Gaza war erupted on October 7, US forces deployed in Iraq and Syria have been attacked at least 66 times, causing injuries to more than 60 personnel, the Pentagon says.
The most recent of these attacks occurred on Monday, with Iran-backed militias firing a “close-range ballistic missile against US and coalition forces at Al-Asad Airbase”, injuring eight people and prompting the US retaliation, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement.
Iraqi spokesperson al-Awadi has denounced the Iran-backed groups whom Washington blames for repeatedly attacking its forces, saying they are engaging in “unlawful” activity and “jeopardising the national interest”.
The Ain al-Assad airbase in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, hosts forces of the US-led coalition fighting ISIL (ISIS) in Iraq.
There are roughly 2,500 US soldiers in Iraq and some 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of ISIL.