Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah militia says 5 killed by US strikes


Baghdad (Reuters) – Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah militia said five of its members were killed in its stronghold of Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad, in U.S. strikes that Washington said were in response to attacks by Iran-aligned militias against its forces in the region.

The U.S. carried out two series of strikes in Iraq on Tuesday and Wednesday, its first publicly reported responses on Iraqi territory to dozens of recent attacks and a sign of escalation in the regional conflict tied to the Israel-Hamas war.

The attacks began on Oct. 17 and have been linked by Iraqi militia groups to U.S. support for Israel in its bombardment of Gaza following attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel.

The strike by fighter aircraft targeted and destroyed a Kataib Hezbollah operations centre and a command and control node near Al Anbar and Jurf Al-Sakhar, a U.S. defence official said.

An Iraqi military official said at least three members of Kataib Hezbollah had been killed and seven wounded in the overnight U.S. strikes.

Kataib Hezbollah is part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, a group of many mainly Shi’ite Muslim armed groups that was formed in 2014 to fight Islamic State and subsequently recognised as an official security agency by Iraq’s government.

Until this week, the United States had been reluctant to retaliate in Iraq because of the delicate political situation in Baghdad, where they have sought closer cooperation, including on financial issues, while seeking to limit Iran’s influence.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has limited control over some Iran-backed factions, whose support he needed to win power a year ago and who now form a powerful bloc in his governing coalition. Many of the factions also do not see eye-to-eye on how far to go with their attacks.

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