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Iran says US strikes on Iraq show its 'support for terrorism'

The comments came as the death toll increased to 25 [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 December, 2019

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"America must put an end to its occupying presence," Iran's government spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday.
Iran said the United States has shown its "support for terrorism" by carrying out airstrikes on forces in Iraq that have dealt blows against the Islamic State group.

The Pentagon said on Sunday that it targeted an Iran-linked militant group in western Iraq and eastern Syria in response to a barrage of rockets that killed a US civilian contractor two days earlier.

"These attacks have once again proved America's false claims in fighting Daesh... as the United States has targeted the positions of forces that over the years have inflicted heavy blows to Daesh terrorists," Iran's government spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday, referring to IS.

"With these attacks, America has shown its firm support for terrorism and its neglect for the independence and sovereignty of countries and it must accept consequences for its illegal act," he said in a statement.

The spokesman said the presence of foreign forces in the region was the cause of insecurity and tensions.

"America must put an end to its occupying presence," said Mousavi.

Iran’s comments came after the deputy leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces militia coalition, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandes, vowed a “harsh response” against the United States as the death toll from US airstrikes targeting the Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah militia reached 25.

“The blood of the martyrs and the injured will not flow in vain, and our response will be harsh against the American troops in Iraq,” Al-Muhandes said in a brief statement to the press.

The victims of the strike included the commander of the 45th brigade of Kataib Hezbollah. Jawad al-Rubai’e, a senior PMF official said that 51 fighters were also wounded in the strike, which targeted Kataib Hezbollah weapons caches and command and control facilities on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

He added that the death toll from the strikes could rise. The PMF, also known by the Arabic Hashed al-Shaabi name, said it was still pulling victims from the rubble of bases near Al-Qaim, an Iraqi district bordering Syria, on Monday.

Another powerful pro-Iran faction, Assaib Ahl al-Haq - whose leaders were recently hit with US sanctions - called for Americans to withdraw from Iraq.

"The American military presence has become a burden for the Iraqi state and a source of threat against our forces," it said in a statement.

"It is therefore imperative for all of us to do everything to expel them by all legitimate means."

The Iraqi government said that the attacks were a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

A few hours after the American strikes, four rockets exploded near a base housing US troops close to Iraq's capital without wounding anyone, an Iraqi security official told AFP.

There has recently been a sharp increase in attacks against US forces in Iraq.

Since October 28, at least 11 attacks have targeted Iraqi military bases where US soldiers or diplomats are deployed, including five rockets that hit Al-Asad air base on December 3, just four days after US Vice President Mike Pence visited troops there.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday the airstrikes were successful, and he did not rule out further action to "deter further bad behaviour from militia groups or from Iran”.

US-Iran tensions have soared since Washington pulled out of a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran last year and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

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