Iraqi paramilitary force vows revenge for US strikes
“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 comments came after the US launched strikes on Sunday against the Kataib Hezbollah militia, which is backed by Iran, two days after a rocket attack on the K1 Iraqi military base in Kirkuk killed an American contractor and wounded several other American and Iraqi personnel.
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".
Meanwhile, Iran condemned the US airstrikes.
Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said that the US had "shown its firm support for terrorism and its neglect for the independence and sovereignty of countries".
Washington, he added, must accept the consequences of its "illegal act".
On the other hand, the strikes were welcomed by Bahrain.
A Bahraini foreign ministry said, “The kingdom expresses its support for the strikes carried out by the United States targeting facilities of Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria”, adding that the US strikes were “in response to repeated criminal acts” by the group.
Agencies contributed to this report.