Iranian-backed militia threatens to target US troops in Iraq after friendly fire incident
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, a prominent faction in the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia, threatened to target US forces in Iraq three days after the US-led coalition mistakenly targeted local police forces in airstrikes in Anbar province.
The militia group led by Akram al-Kaabi has previously targeted US forces in Iraq following the fall of the authoritarian regime in Iraq in 2003. The militia is suspected to have been trained and armed by Iran as it is close to Iranian Quds Force Commander, Qassem Soleimani.
The incident in the town of al-Baghdadi in Anbar province “was evidence of the ongoing barbarism and systematic sabotage of US forces [against Iraqis],” al-Kaabi told Iranian Fars News agency.
On Saturday, a US helicopter bombed an unplanned convoy of local police and tribal fighters who were attempting to make a move on the town of Baghdadi. Iraqi forces, with air support from the US-led coalition, were at the same looking to catch a senior Islamic State (IS) commander in the area.
More than seven people were killed and several others wounded, including a local police officer and a senior commander.
Al-Kaabi said US forces “will not stop” targeting Iraqi forces “unless we expel them completely from Iraq.”
“The presence of US troops after the liberation [of Iraq] from terrorism is not justifiable nor legitimate, and we will view them as an occupying force if they do not leave,” he added.
The Coalition spokesperson, Col. Ryan Dillon, on Twitter said the helicopter carried out its strikes at the request of Iraqi forces and pointed out that there are no unilateral operations conducted by the coalition in Iraq.
The Joint Operations Command released a statement saying that an investigation had been launched into the incident.
The statement indicated that the US aircraft and Iraqi security forces suspected the local police units and tribal fighters were affiliated with IS.
Earlier in November 2017, US House of Representatives Ted Poe introduced a bill called “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017” that calls for imposing terrorism-related sanctions on Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Editing by Nadia Riva