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Airstrike in central Baghdad kills Iran-backed militia leader as regional tensions escalate

Officials say an airstrike on the logistical support headquarters of an Iran-backed militia in central Baghdad has killed a high-ranking militia commander

Qassim Abdul-Zahra,Ali Jabar
Thursday 04 January 2024 10:52 GMT
Iraq Strike
Iraq Strike (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

An airstrike on the logistical support headquarters of an Iran-backed militia in central Baghdad Thursday killed a high-ranking militia commander, militia officials said.

Thursday’s strike comes amid mounting regional tensions fueled by Israel-Hamas war and fears that it could spill over into surrounding countries.

The Popular Mobilization Force - a coalition of militias that is nominally under the control of the Iraqi military - announced in a statement that its deputy head of operations in Baghdad, Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, or “Abu Taqwa,” had been killed “as a result of brutal American aggression.”

It was not immediately clear who had carried out the strike.

Officials with the U.S. military and embassy in Baghdad did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The strike killed two people and wounded five, according to two militia officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

One of the officials said al-Saidi was driving into the garage of the headquarters affiliated with the al-Nujaba militia, one of the members of the PMF, along with another militia official when the car was hit, killing both.

Heavy security was deployed around the location of the strike on Baghdad’s Palestine Street, and Associated Press journalists were not allowed to approach the targeted building. Iraqi war planes could be seen flying overhead.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, a group of Iranian-backed militias calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has carried out more than 100 attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

The group has said the attacks are in retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel in the war against Hamas that has killed more than 20,000 people in Gaza, and that they aim to push U.S. forces out of Iraq.

The strike also comes two days after a suspected Israeli drone strike in the suburbs of Beirut killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh Arouri.

Asked whether Israel had involvement in Thursday’s strike in Baghdad, an Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment.


Associated Press staff writers Bassem Mroue and Abby Sewell in Beirut and Melanie Lidman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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