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Kataib Hezbollah commander killed in Baghdad in US strike

A commander from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed armed group in Iraq that the Pentagon has blamed for attacking its troops, was killed in a US strike, the US military has said.

“(US) forces conducted a unilateral strike in Iraq in response to the attacks on US service members, killing a Kataib Hezbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on US forces in the region,” a statement from the military said.

It did not name the commander.

It added that there were no indications of civilian casualties.

Two security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the commander was Abu Baqir al-Saadi, killed in a drone strike on a vehicle in eastern Baghdad.

Three people were believed killed in the drone strike

One of the sources said three people were killed and that the vehicle targeted was used by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a state security agency composed of dozens of armed groups, many of them close to Iran.

Kataib Hezbollah fighters and commanders are part of the PMF.

Three US troops were killed in January in a drone attack near the Jordan-Syria border that the Pentagon said bore the “footprints” of Kataib Hezbollah. The group then announced it was suspending military operations against US troops in the region.

The Iraqi prime minister’s military spokesman Yahya Rasool said that repeated US strikes against Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq are pushing the government to end the mission of the US-led coalition in the country.

Iraq and Syria have witnessed near daily tit-for-tat attacks between hardline Iran-backed armed groups and US forces stationed in the region since the Gaza war began in October.

The US struck Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria last weekend in what it said was just the beginning of its response to the killing of the three US soldiers.

In January, a US drone strike killed a senior militia commander in central Baghdad, an attack Washington said came in response to drone and rocket attacks on its forces.

Yesterday, Iraqi special forces were on high alert in Baghdad and further units were deployed inside the Green Zone housing international diplomatic missions including the US embassy, a security source said.

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