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US drone strike in Iraq kills commander of Iran-backed militia

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A US drone strike in Iraq killed the commander of a powerful Iranian-backed militia, the latest retaliatory move by American forces following an attack on a base that killed three US soldiers last month.

The US military’s central command said Wednesday’s strike killed a Kataib Hizbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on US forces in the region.

A person familiar with the matter said the strike killed Wisam Mohammed “Abu Baqer” al-Saadi, the commander in charge of Kataib Hezbollah’s operations in Syria.

Wednesday’s drone strike was the second US attack in Iraq targeting a senior leader of an Iranian-backed militia since October.

Senior Biden administration officials have vowed the US would continue to respond to a deadly drone attack in Jordan late last month that killed three US troops and injured 41 more.

The retaliatory campaign has raised fears that Washington is being drawn into a wider conflagration in the region sparked by the four-month-old Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The US military last weekend struck 85 targets at seven sites in Iraq and Syria in response to attacks on its service members. It has also been attacking Houthi targets in Yemen in an effort to degrade the rebel group’s ability to continue targeting commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea.

The Biden administration has repeatedly insisted it is trying to deter Iran and its proxies in the region, while avoiding an escalation. Since October 18, three US service members have been killed and 143 have been injured in attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.

The US blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iranian-backed militias, for the attack in Jordan and have said they suspected Kataib Hizbollah was behind it.

Iran, which has said it wants to avoid a broader regional conflict, warned after last Fridays wave of strikes that they would increase instability in the region.

Tehran insists that the militant groups it backs have been acting independently in their opposition to Israel’s offensive in Gaza and support for the Palestinians.

Additional reporting by Andrew England in London

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