US-led airstrikes target Kata’ib Hezbollah positions in Iraq’s Babylon

First pictures emerging of the US-led airstrikes on Kata’ib Hezbollah in Babylon, Iraq, on March 13, 2020. (Screengrab)

US carried out airstrikes on five positions of the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah in Babylon, southwest of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday.

The  airstrikes targeted the infrastructure of Kata’ib Hezbollah resulting in big losses among their ranks.

The airstrikes also targeted the Popular Mobilizaion Units in Al Anbar as well and Babylon, according to Al Arabiya correspondent.

On Wednesday, at least 18 Katyusha rockets were fired at military camp Taji in Iraq, killing one 26-year-old British soldier and two American personnel. The Pentagon squarely blamed Iran-backed militia for thes attack, which also wounded 14 people.

The Pentagon later confirmed that the United States had carried out strikes against five Iran-backed militia weapons storage facilities in Iraq, a day after a deadly rocket attack killed two American and one British service member.

“The United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hezbolla facilities across Iraq,” a Pentagon statement said.

“These weapons storage facilities include facilities that housed weapons used to target US and coalition troops,” it said.

The strikes were “defensive, proportional and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups” the statement added. 

The Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Thursday: “Earlier this evening, the United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq.”

“These strikes targeted five weapon storage facilities to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks against Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces,” it said.

These strikes were defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces.

Yesterday’s attack on Camp Taji killed two US and one U.K. service members and wounded 14 others. It marked the latest in a series of rocket attacks conducted by Iranian-backed SMGs against US and coalition personnel - killing five and wounding dozens more, including Iraqi Security Forces.

“The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies,” Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper said. “As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.”

During discussions with senior Iraqi officials, the department re-emphasized its commitment to the force protection of coalition service members and to preventing SMG attacks on coalition forces.

A number of SMGs, including KH, have a strong linkage with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force and have repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that they have used to attack coalition forces.

These SMGs and their Iranian supporters must cease their attacks on US and coalition forces or face consequences at a time and place of our choosing.

The US and the coalition remain committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS, and the long-term security and stability of Iraq, the statement added.

Iraqi military satement 

An Iraqi military statement said on Friday that the US air strikes hit four locations of Iraqi paramilitary forces, police and army in Iraq,

Among the locations hit by was a position in Najaf and three other places south of the capital Baghdad, the statement carried by state television said.

Eariler, US President Donald Trump has given the Pentagon the authority to potentially respond to Wednesday’s rocket attack by Iran-backed militia in Iraq that killed two American troops and a British servicemember, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday.

“I have spoken with the president. He’s given me the authority to do what we need to do, consistent with his guidance. And, you know - if that becomes the case,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon

“We must find those responsible. I welcome the Iraqi President’s call for an immediate investigation to hold perpetrators to account - but we must see action,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Raab also said he had spoken with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday night, and the two had agreed that “it is essential to defend against these deplorable acts.”

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