US Strike Kills Pro-Iran Militia Commander in Baghdad Headquarters

Members of Harakat Al Nujaba, an Iran-aligned Iraqi militia, stand guard after a drone strike the group's headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq Jan. 4, 2024. (Ahmed Saad/Reuters)
January 4, 2024

The US military has carried out a strike in Baghdad against an Iraqi militia leader it blames for attacks against U.S. forces in the country, killing him and another person, a U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday.

The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the strike hit a vehicle in Baghdad. It targeted a leader of Harakat Al Nujaba, an Iran-aligned Iraqi militia, the official said, without naming the person.

Iraqi police and security sources said a drone strike killed four members of Al Nujaba and wounded six in Baghdad on Thursday. Iraqi authorities blamed the U.S.-led international coalition for the attack.

Police sources and eyewitnesses said the drone had fired at least two rockets at a building in eastern Baghdad used by the Al Nujaba.

"The Iraqi armed forces hold the international coalition forces responsible for this unjustified attack on an Iraqi security entity", said a statement that described the militia group as an Iraqi force operating with the authorization of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani.

The United States has 900 troops deployed in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State militants.

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.

Police and militia sources said Thursday's rockets had targeted a vehicle inside the Al Nujaba headquarters and that the dead included a local group commander and one of his aides. Health sources confirmed the death toll.

Video footage published by pro-militia websites showed a destroyed vehicle in flames. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

Iraqi security sources said they had no further detail on who might have carried out the strike pending a government investigation.

Iraqi militia commanders accused the United States of carrying out the attack and threatened to retaliate.

"We will retaliate and make the Americans regret carrying out this aggression," said Abu Aqeel Al Moussawi, a local Iraqi militia commander.

There was no immediate comment from Washington.

The U.S. military has already come under attack at least 100 times in Iraq and Syria since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, usually with a mix of rockets and one-way attack drones.

Iran-aligned groups in Iraq and Syria oppose Israel's campaign in Gaza and hold the United States partly responsible.

Last month, the United States carried out retaliatory air strikes in Iraq after a drone attack by Iran-aligned militants that left one U.S. service member in critical condition and wounded two others.

Published under: Iran , Iraq , Military