February 21, 2024

By Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Lolita C. Baldor and Aamer Madhani | Related Press

BAGHDAD — A U.S. drone strike blew up a automobile within the Iraqi capital Wednesday night time, killing a high-ranking commander of the highly effective Kataib Hezbollah militia who’s accountable for “instantly planning and collaborating in assaults” on American troops within the area, the U.S. navy stated Wednesday.

The precision blast hit a essential thoroughfare within the Mashtal neighborhood in japanese Baghdad, attracting a crowd as emergency groups picked via the wreckage. It got here amid roiling tensions within the area, and can seemingly additional anger Iraqi authorities leaders, who U.S. officers stated weren’t notified prematurely of the strike.

Safety forces closed off the closely guarded Inexperienced Zone, the place numerous diplomatic compounds are situated, and there have been considerations about social media postings urging protesters to storm the U.S. embassy.

There have been conflicting reviews on the variety of these killed, with U.S. officers saying the preliminary evaluation was one, and saying there have been no civilians damage or killed. However two officers with Iran-backed militias in Iraq stated that three died, together with Wissam Muhammad Sabir Al-Saadi, generally known as Abu Baqir Al-Saadi, the commander in control of Kataib Hezbollah’s operations in Syria. Kataeb Hezbollah later introduced his loss of life “following the bombing of the American occupation forces” in an announcement.

These officers spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to talk to journalists.

In an announcement, U.S. Central Command stated “there aren’t any indications of collateral harm or civilian casualties at the moment.” It added that the U.S. “won’t hesitate to carry accountable all those that threaten our forces’ security.”

The strike — which got here at 9:30 p.m. native time — is definite to inflame already seething relations between Washington and Baghdad. It comes simply days after the U.S. navy launched an air assault on dozens of web sites in Iraq and Syria utilized by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for a drone strike that killed three U.S. troops and injured greater than 40 others at a base in Jordan in late January.

The U.S. has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a broad coalition of Iran-backed militias, for the assault in Jordan. President Joe Biden and different prime leaders have repeatedly warned that the U.S. would proceed to retaliate in opposition to these accountable for the Jordan assault. And officers have prompt that key militia leaders could be seemingly targets.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has repeatedly claimed strikes on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria in opposition to the backdrop of the continuing Israel-Hamas warfare, saying that they’re in retaliation for Washington’s help of Israel in its warfare in Gaza that has killed greater than 27,000 Palestinians, in accordance with the Well being Ministry within the Hamas-run territory.

There have been practically 170 assaults on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 18, however the newest drone strike in Jordan — the one one in that nation to date — was the primary to take American troops’ lives. The U.S., in response, has struck again a few half dozen instances since Oct. 27, concentrating on weapons storage websites, command and management facilities, coaching amenities and different areas utilized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian-backed teams, together with Kataib Hezbollah.

Wednesday’s U.S. strike in Iraq’s capital drew comparisons to the 2020 drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s Quds Power chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in response to assaults on U.S. bases there and an assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. That bombing additionally killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq generally known as the In style Mobilization Forces. And it enraged Iraqi leaders, triggering calls for for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the nation.