One dead, 24 wounded in strikes on pro-Iran sites in Iraq: Sources

AFP , Tuesday 26 Dec 2023

One member of pro-Iranian forces in Iraq was killed and 24 other people were wounded in strikes Tuesday, security sources said, after the United States said it had conducted retaliatory strikes in the country.

Hashed al-Shaabi
File Photo: Fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitaries sit in a heavily-armed vehicle near defensive positions on the outskirts of Tal Afar west of Mosul. AFP

 

An Iraqi interior ministry official said the strikes targeted a Hashed al-Shaabi site in the central city of Hilla, one of two locations targeted in Babylon province.

One person was killed and 20 wounded, while four others were wounded in another strike in the southern province of Wassit, the official said. Two security sources in Babylon and Wassit provinces gave the same information.

Hours earlier the United States said its forces had carried out strikes on three sites used by pro-Iran groups in Iraq in response to a series of attacks on US personnel.

US forces have repeatedly targeted sites used by Iran and its proxy forces in Iraq and Syria in response to dozens of attacks on American and allied forces in the region since the October 7 outbreak of the Israeli war on Gaza.

"US military forces conducted necessary and proportionate strikes on three facilities used by Kataeb Hezbollah and affiliated groups in Iraq," US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

The Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, forms part of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a coalition of former paramilitary forces that are now integrated into Iraq's regular armed forces.

"These precision strikes are a response to a series of attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias, including an attack by Iran-affiliated Kataeb Hezbollah and affiliated groups on Arbil Air Base" on Monday, Austin said.

That attack wounded three US military personnel, one critically, US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

US President Joe Biden was briefed on the attack -- which was carried out with a one-way attack drone -- and directed the US strikes in a call with Austin and other national security officials after ordering the defense department to prepare a response, the statement said.

Biden "places no higher priority than the protection of American personnel serving in harm's way. The United States will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue," the statement added.

The drone attack was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi.

A tally by US military officials has counted 103 attacks against its troops in Iraq and Syria since October 17, most of which have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which opposes US support for Israel's war on Gaza.

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