US drone strike kills Kataib Hezbollah commander in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — In a targeted drone strike on Wednesday, Abu Baqir al-Saadi, a senior commander of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia group in Iraq, and two of his guards, were killed, as confirmed by the US military. The operation was a direct response to previous assaults on American troops that have resulted in the deaths of three US soldiers and the wounding of dozens of others, according to the Pentagon.

The US military stated, “Forces conducted a unilateral strike in Iraq in response to the attacks on US service members, killing a Kataib Hezbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on US forces in the region.”

The vehicle targeted in the drone strike purportedly belonged to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an entity comprising various armed groups, several of which are aligned with Iran. Notably, Kataib Hezbollah fighters and leaders are integrated into the PMF.

Following the incident, heightened tensions reverberated through Baghdad, prompting Iraqi special forces to assume high alert status. Additional units were deployed within the Green Zone, home to international diplomatic missions, including the US embassy, as indicated by a security source.

This development comes against a backdrop of escalating hostilities between Iranian-backed militias and US forces stationed in the region. In January, three US soldiers were killed in a drone attack in Jordan, just across the border into Syria, attributed to Kataib Hezbollah. Subsequently, the group announced a suspension of military operations against US troops.

The recent strike follows a series of retaliatory actions by the US, including airstrikes on Iran-affiliated groups in Iraq and Syria over the past weekend. These actions were framed by US officials as the commencement of a response to the killings of the three soldiers in January.