Drone Strike in Baghdad Kills High-Ranking Militia Commander

Iraqis gather at the site of a burned vehicle targeted by a U.S. drone strike in east Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

A drone strike hit a car in the Iraqi capital Wednesday night, killing three members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah militia including a high-ranking commander, militia officials said.

The vehicle was allegedly targeted the same type of drone that was used to assassinate Qasim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on January3, 2020 at Bagdad International Airport. Soleimani and al-Muhandis were connected with the Iranian government and factions it supported.

The strike occurred on a main thoroughfare in the Mashtal neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. A crowd gathered as emergency response teams picked through the wreckage.

Two officials with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq said that one of those killed was Wissam Mohammed “Abu Bakr” al—Saadi, the commander in charge of Kataib Hezbollah’s operations in Syria. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to journalists.

The strike came days after the U.S. military launched an air assault on 85 targets sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, killing at least 13 members of Iran-backed armed groups in Syria, and 16 in Iraq. The February 3 strikes were in retaliation for the January 28 drone strike that killed three U.S. troops in Jordan that the U.S. blamed on the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a broad coalition of Iran-backed militias, which officials suspect that Kataib Hezbollah in particular had a leading role in those attacks.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials on Wednesday’s strike.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has regularly claimed strikes on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria against the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, saying that they are in retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel.

Kataib Hezbollah had said in a statement that it was suspending attacks on American troops to avoid “embarrassing the Iraqi government” after the strike in Jordan, but others have vowed to continue fighting.

With reporting by wire services.

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