Air strikes kill 18 Iraqi fighters in Hashed al-Shaabi locations in Syria: NGO

Coalition forces train Iraqi soldiers improve their skills during a military exercise at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, Iraq, March 20, 2017. (File photo: AP)

At least 18 fighters from an Iraqi paramilitary group were killed in air strikes in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, suggesting the international coalition was to blame.

“The 18 Iraqi fighters” were killed in raids on positions of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi military network in the area of Boukamal, on the border with Iraq, the observatory said.

Before the strikes, at least 18 Katyusha rockets were fired at military camp Taji in Iraq, killing three US personnel and injuring at least 12.

Read: Three US personnel killed, 12 injured in rocket attack on Iraqi base

Previous rocket attacks targeting US soldiers, diplomats and facilities in Iraq in recent months have killed one US contractor and an Iraqi soldier.

None of the attacks have been claimed, but Washington accuses pro-Iran factions of being responsible.

Two days after the death of an American in rockets fired on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk at the end of last year, the US army hit five bases in Iraq and Syria used by the pro-Iran armed faction Kata’ib Hezbollah.

Tensions then rose further between arch foes Washington and Tehran, leading to the assassination in Baghdad on January 3 of the Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary commander in a US drone strike.

Iran retaliated by launching a volley of missiles at an Iraqi base hosting US soldiers days later.

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