A US drone strike targeting a vehicle in Baghdad on Wednesday killed three members of Kataib Hezbollah, including a high-ranking commander, marking another US escalation in Iraq.
Kataib Hezbollah is a Shia militia that’s part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of Iraqi militias that was founded in 2014 to fight ISIS. The PMF is part of Iraq’s security forces, and the Iraqi government has been furious over recent US airstrikes against the PMF.
A PMF official speaking to Rudaw identified the slain Kataib Hezbollah commander as Abu Baqir al-Saadi. US Central Command released a statement confirming the US was behind the drone strike.
CENTCOM said the assassination was in response to attacks on US troops in the region. The command claimed that al-Saadi was responsible for attacks on US troops. CENTCOM said its 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.”
The drone strike has outraged many in Iraq and sparked protests near the US embassy in Baghdad. According to AP, Iraqi security forces have closed off Baghdad’s Green Zone, where most foreign diplomatic missions are located, in response to calls for protesters to storm the US embassy.
The drone strike came a few days after the US launched heavy airstrikes across eastern Syria and western Iraq that it said was retaliation for the drone attack on a base in Jordan that killed three US troops. Before the US launched the bombing campaign, Kataib Hezbollah announced it was suspending military operations against the US.
A group that calls itself the Islamic Resistance of Iraq (IRI) has taken credit for most of the attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria that started in October in response to US support for the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. Kataib Hezbollah is believed to be part of the IRI.