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U.S. strike kills militia leader in Baghdad, officials say

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A U.S. military strike in Baghdad on Wednesday killed the leader of a militia group that has plotted attacks on American troops throughout the region, officials said.

The operation targeted a key figure in an Iranian-backed group, Kata’ib Hezbollah, that the Biden administration has blamed for scores of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since October. American positions have been hit with drones, rockets or missiles at least 168 times in that span. An attack in Jordan on Jan. 28 that killed three U.S. soldiers was the first time one turned deadly.

Militias organized under the Islamic Resistance in Iraq have framed their attacks on U.S. personnel as a protest of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and American support for it.

The latest strike is certain to cause an outcry in Iraq, where the government in Baghdad has forcefully objected to the bloodshed and complained about being caught in the middle of a fight between the United States and groups armed and trained by Iran.

Loud booms were heard across the capital on Wednesday night. The Iraqi military later announced that a civilian car had been targeted in the Mashtal neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing all of its occupants, who were not identified. Crowds later gathered around the blackened vehicle, a Jeep, and at one point security officers removed a body from underneath the car.

Last week, U.S. forces struck 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, destroying or damaging virtually all of them, officials have said. The Iraqi government reported civilian casualties afterward and summoned a senior U.S. diplomat to issue an official note of protest. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that civilians were killed in the strikes and that Iraq does not want to be an arena “for settling scores between rival countries.”

Administration officials have said they will take all necessary measures to protect U.S. troops. On Sunday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby implored the Iraqi government to “move with more alacrity” in addressing the threats posed to roughly 3,500 American military personnel who are based in the country and neighboring Syria.

“Three Americans were killed, three troops; three families now are grieving,” Kirby told Fox News. “The president’s not going to sit back and idly just take that. We’re going to respond.”

Fahim reported from Baghdad.

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