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US strike in Baghdad kills Kataib Hezbollah commander as Iraq tensions simmer

A Telegram channel affiliated with Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) reported that Abu Baqir al-Saadi, a commander in Kataib Hezbollah, was killed in the attack.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on Wednesday that US forces have conducted a strike in Iraq that killed Kataib Hezbollah commander Abu Baqir al-Saadi, marking the latest escalation between Washington and Iran-linked groups inside Iraq. 

The strike was in response to attacks on US forces, CENTCOM said. The commander was "responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on US forces in the region," it added. 

A Telegram channel affiliated with Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) reported that Abu Baqir al-Saadi was killed in the attack that targeted a car in Baghdad. Al-Jazeera Arabic identified Saadi as head of the aerial division in Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia that was widely blamed for the attack on a US base in Jordan that killed three American troops on Jan. 28. 

Two days after the Jordan attack and amid fears of US retaliation, Kataib Hezbollah announced a suspension of hostilities against US troops. 

Sabereen News, an outlet affiliated with Iran-backed militias in Iraq, reported that a vehicle was targeted with missiles in Mashtal in east Baghdad around 9:30 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. ET). The outlet later blamed Saadi's death on "American aggression."

The attack marks the second round of retaliation by the United States against Iraqi militias for the attack in Jordan. The United States launched aerial attacks in Iraq and Syria last Friday.

Pro-Iran Iraqi militias have carried out more than 160 attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since the Israel-Hamas war began in October 2023, the US military said. The United States has carried out airstrikes in Iraq at least five times in response. 

The Iraqi government has called on international forces in the US-led coalition to wind down their presence in the country amid the violence. The United States and Iraq began a dialogue on the issue last month.

The Iraqi government, according to its official media, said it was investigating the attack. 

In a statement late on Wednesday, the Iran-backed Nujaba militia called for revenge.

“Heroic resistors who fight the brutal occupier, this is your time and this is your battle,” said the militia in a statement carried by Sabereen.

Sabereen also posted videos of anti-American protests in Baghdad following the strike.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.