US confirms bombing Iraq’s Shia Kata’eb Hezbollah militia after rocket strike at base near Baghdad killed 2 troops
US aircraft bombed five Shia militia targets in Iraq, in retaliation for the earlier deaths of two US service members and a British nurse in a rocket attack on Camp Taji near Baghdad.
“Earlier this evening, the United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) facilities across Iraq.
“These strikes targeted five weapon storage facilities to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks against Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces,” the US Department of Defense said in a statement, confirming multiple reports on social media.
Branding the raids “defensive and proportional,” it said that the sorties were launched in “direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups.”
Earlier in the day, the Pentagon blamed the “Iran-backed” Iraqi Shia militias for Wednesday’s rocket strike, which killed three and wounded 14 more people.
#US Department of Defense press release on today’s retaliatory attack on Kata’ib Hezbollah, part of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi #PMF, which in turn is part of #Iraq’s official armed forces, an important piece of information the Pentagon and mass media leaves out. pic.twitter.com/3E6b2kT6X2
— The Wolf Report (@thewolfreports) March 12, 2020
Kata’eb Hezbollah – one of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias that the US has blamed for attacks on its forces in Iraq.
Iraqi Security Media Cell, affiliated with the military, has confirmed that the strikes targeted PMF headquarters and warehouses, amid reports that the militia has suffered heavy casualties during the raids.
There were even unconfirmed reports that among them was General Siamand Mashhadani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Photos have emerged purporting to show the impact of the airstrikes on the Karbala International Airport, still under construction in Shia-majority Karbala governorate in central Iraq.
Thursday’s attack follows a series of airstrikes against PMF positions in Iraq’s Anbar province and just across the border in Syria on Wednesday, which were blamed on the US by local media outlets but never confirmed by the Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said earlier in the day that he was given the authority “to do what we need to do” from US President Donald Trump, without elaborating further.
A total of 18 rockets struck Camp Taji on Wednesday, killing two US troops – whose names have not been made public yet – and one British army nurse, identified since as Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon. The base, located 27km north of Baghdad, is used by the US coalition to train Iraqi security forces.
The PMF are mainly composed of Iraqi Shia militiamen who have fought alongside the mainly Sunni Iraqi army, and have been formally recognized as a part of it since March 2018.
The US considers them Iranian proxies, because they have received military and financial support from Tehran during the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists.