Iraq blames US-led coalition for deadly drone strike in Baghdad

Senior commander of Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces group is among those killed.

Iraqi security forces on patrol after a drone attack on an Iran-backed paramilitary group's headquarters in Baghdad, January 4, 2024
Iraqi security forces on patrol after a drone attack on an Iran-backed paramilitary group's headquarters in Baghdad, January 4, 2024 [Ahmed Saad/Reuters]

Iraq’s government has accused the United States-led international coalition forces of carrying out a drone strike targeting an Iran-aligned paramilitary group in the capital, Baghdad, that killed and wounded several people.

The strike on Thursday targeted the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), also known as Hashd al-Shaabi. Hajj Mushtaq Talib al-Saidi (Abu Taqwa), a senior PMF commander, was among those killed.

The total number of casualties was not immediately clear, but the Reuters news agency reported that four PMF members were killed and six wounded.

“The Iraqi armed forces hold the forces of the international coalition responsible for this attack,” Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office said in a statement, calling it a “dangerous escalation and aggression”.

Iraq’s foreign ministry also condemned the attack, calling it an “aggression” on an Iraqi security facility. “Iraq reserves its right to take a firm stance and take all measures that deter anyone who tries to harm its land and security forces,” it said in a statement.

Iraq’s Al-Nujaba TV, considered close to the PMF, published footage showing the impact of the strike on the group’s headquarters.

The attack came amid heightened regional tensions since war broke out between US ally Israel and Hamas, triggered by the Palestinian armed group’s October 7 attack in southern Israel.

There was no immediate comment from US officials, whose forces in Iraq and neighbouring Syria have faced a surge in attacks since the start of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

There was an intense security presence around the site of the strike, Baghdad’s Palestine Street, according to The Associated Press news agency, which said its journalists were blocked from accessing the area.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, a group of Iranian-backed armed organisations – calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq – has carried out more than 100 attacks on bases housing US troops in Iraq and Syria.

The group has said the attacks are in retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel in the war against Hamas that has killed more than 22,000 people in Gaza, and that they aim to push US forces out of Iraq.

Last month, the US carried out retaliatory air raids in Iraq after a drone attack by Iran-aligned fighters left three wounded, including one US service member in critical condition.

The strike also comes two days after the killing of Saleh al-Arouri – a deputy leader of Hamas, an ally of Iran – in a drone strike in Beirut, raising fears of further escalation and destabilisation in the region.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies