A strike targeted a vehicle belonging to the pro-Iran armed groups Hachd al-Chaabi on Tuesday near Baghdad, two sources within the security services told AFP, before the United States announced that it was the origin and that they had caused “several deaths”.
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Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder said the strike was carried out in response to the attack the day before by a “short-range ballistic missile” on the Ain al-Assad base, where stationed American troops and the international anti-jihadist coalition.
The attack left eight people injured and some minor damage to the base, the spokesperson said.
The latter then claimed that the American response strike had been carried out “against the vehicle of a militia supported by Iran” of which “several” members died.
Iraqi security forces have not made an official statement on the event.
The strike targeted a vehicle of Hachd al-Chaabi, former paramilitaries now integrated into the regular Iraqi forces, shortly before dawn.
Questioned by AFP, a Hachd al-Chaabi official confirmed the strike, and reported for his part “one fighter killed and three others injured”.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official told him that the vehicle had been targeted “on the highway at Abu Ghraib”, around thirty kilometers west of the capital.
The two officials had estimated that the strike was carried out by a drone before the Pentagon announced that an American plane had carried it out.
The vehicle was part of a convoy of four cars, according to the Interior Ministry source. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.
The attack on the Ain al-Assad base and the American response come against a backdrop of heightened regional tensions following the outbreak of war between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Pentagon deputy spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday that U.S. forces and the international anti-jihadist coalition deployed in Iraq and Syria had been targeted 66 times by rocket fire or drone strikes since the October 17, 10 days after the unprecedented attack on Israeli soil by Hamas.
The attacks left some 62 American personnel injured, according to Sabrina Singh, who clarified that this figure did not include the death toll from Monday’s attack on the Ain al-Assad base.
Armed groups close to Iran have threatened to attack American forces deployed in the Middle East because of Washington’s support for Israel in its war against Palestinian Hamas.
In recent weeks, most attacks against American soldiers and the coalition have been claimed by a group called “Islamic Resistance in Iraq”, on channels on the Telegram application close to pro-Iran armed groups.
The movement announced Tuesday that one of its fighters had been killed in combat in “the battle” against American forces in Iraq, without detailing the circumstances of this death, nor specifying whether he had been killed at Abu Ghraib.
A funeral was held Tuesday near a mosque in Baghdad for this fighter, Fadel al-Maksoussi, in the presence of several hundred Hachd al-Chaabi fighters, according to an AFP journalist.
His coffin was covered with a flag in the colors of the Hezbollah Brigades. This influential Hachd group had recently assured that the attacks of the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” were part of a “strategy of attrition”.
In retaliation for the attacks, Washington bombed sites in Syria linked to Iran. The United States also adopted sanctions against seven people affiliated with two pro-Iranian Iraqi armed groups.
Washington has around 900 soldiers in Syria and nearly 2,500 in Iraq fighting the jihadist organization Islamic State (IS).