Iraq’s military said US airstrikes in the south of the country killed three Iraqi soldiers, two police officers, and one civilian. On Friday, US officials said they launched airstrikes in Southern Iraq against targets where weapons are stored by Kataib Hezbollah, a Shi’ite militia group.
The US was retaliating for a rocket attack on a military base near Baghdad that killed two US soldiers, and one British soldier. The US blamed the attack on Kataib Hezbollah, but offered no evidence to back up the claim. In a statement, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth Mackenzie said, “we have information that confirms Kataib Hezbollah conducted the rocket attacks on Camp Taji on March 11th.”
These latest provocations are similar to the series of events that resulted in the US assassinating top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January. Those events were sparked by a rocket attack on a military base that killed a US contractor, which the US also blamed on Kataib Hezbollah. Iraqi intelligence officials recently said the December rocket attack was more likely carried out by ISIS.
Iraqi officials also said five members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were injured in the most recent US airstrikes. The PMF is an umbrella organization of Iraqi militias that have fought together against ISIS since 2014. Kataib Hezbollah is a member of the PMF.
The US presence in Iraq is not only a point of contention for the Shi’ite militia groups in the country, but also the Iraqi government. After the assassination of Soleimani, Iraq’s parliament voted to expel all US troops from the country. The killing of Iraqi government security forces will likely cause more calls for the US to leave.