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Iraq army official condemns U.S. drone strike in Baghdad of Iran-backed militia commander: “Blatant assassination”

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Iraqi officials on Thursday condemned an overnight U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed a senior commander of the Iran-backed militia suspected of carrying out the attack on a U.S. base in Jordan that killed three American troops. A spokesperson for the Iraqi Armed Forces called the strike a “blatant assassination” and said it was an example of the destabilizing influence of U.S. and allied troops in the country.

The U.S. military’s Central Command confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that it had “conducted a unilateral strike in Iraq in response to the attacks on U.S. service members, killing a Kata’ib Hezbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on U.S. forces in the region.”

“There are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties at this time,” the statement said.

A car burns following what the U.S. military says was a deadly drone strike on a Kataib Hezbollah commander, in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 7, 2024, in this screengrab from social media video obtained by Reuters.
A car burns following what the U.S. military says was a deadly drone strike on a Kataib Hezbollah commander, in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 7, 2024, in this screengrab from social media video obtained by Reuters.

Social media video obtained by Reuters


Yehia Rasool, the spokesperson for the commander in chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, sharply criticized the U.S., however, accusing it of having “conducted a blatant assassination” in Baghdad with “no regard for civilian lives or international laws.”

The U.S.-led international military coalition in Iraq, Rasool said, had “become a factor of instability” in the country.

The U.S. strike was the latest in a series of retaliatory attacks against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, which have coincided with strikes by the U.S. and the U.K. against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have launched drones and missiles at ships in the Red Sea for weeks. 

The militias and the Houthis all characterize their attacks as support for the Palestinian people amid Israel’s devastating war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which shows no signs of abating anytime soon.

The U.S. launched its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday, hitting more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the militias — or Iranian proxy groups, as the U.S. calls them — that the Guard supports in retaliation for the deadly attack on the U.S. base in Jordan.


U.S. strikes Iraq and Syria after deadly drone attack in Jordan

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The Iran-backed groups have targeted U.S. bases with an increasing number of rocket and drone attacks since the war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel. More than 170 attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria and Jordan have been confirmed since Oct. 17, though most have caused little damage, and only the attack on the Tower 22 base in Jordan was fatal.

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq was established in 2014 to combat ISIS. The U.S. still has about 2,500 troops deployed in the country, with a primary mission to advise and assist local Iraqi forces as they seek to prevent ISIS from regaining strength in the country.

Anger has mounted in Baghdad over the U.S. strikes, which the Iraqi government often calls a violation of the country’s sovereignty and destabilizing to its security.

Talks between the U.S. and Iraq over a potential future withdrawal of coalition forces started weeks ago, but after the Iranian-backed militia killed the U.S. soldiers in Jordan, those talks were paused. An Iraqi government official told CBS News on Thursday that Baghdad had yet to make a final decision on whether to call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein advocated for a resumption of the talks on the future of the international military forces in Iraq during a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week.

But the unease over the U.S. strikes doesn’t come only from Iraqi officials — there’s also broad and growing fury over the attacks among the Iraqi public.

People carry a coffin of a commander from Kataib Hezbollah, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike, during a funeral in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2024.
People carry a coffin of a commander from Kataib Hezbollah, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike, during a funeral in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2024.

Reuters/Ahmed Saad


As militia members and Iraqi government officials took part in a huge funeral ceremony for the slain militia leader in Baghdad on Thursday, one of the group’s commanders vowed to avenge his death. Large crowds chanted “death to America” and other refrains heard commonly in Iran and among its supporters.

One member of Iraq’s Parliament told CBS News on the condition of anonymity that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was directing the attacks against U.S. forces in a bid to spur the withdrawal of American troops from the region.

“The Iraqi government is caught in a war between the U.S. and Iranian proxies. [U.S.] attacks like the one yesterday help those proxies put more pressure on the Iraqi government to push the international coalition out of Iraq,” the lawmaker told CBS News. “Iran needs this war to spread, so they can embarrass the U.S. and push them out of the region.”

Iran’s government has repeatedly denied any role in the attacks carried out by the groups it supports across the region, insisting that they act independently.

“Regional resistance factions do not receive orders from Iran, and Iran does not interfere in the decisions of the resistance to support Palestine or defend itself,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Jan. 29.

Margaret Brennan contributed reporting.

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