Iraqis gather at the site of a burned vehicle targeted by a U.S. drone strike in east Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
The United States is engaging in military strikes in Baghdad against targets it claims are responsible for an attack in Jordan that left three American service members dead.
An evening strike killed a commander associated with the Kata’ib Hezbollah terror group, according to a statement drafted by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and shared with The Epoch Times.
“U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted a unilateral strike in Iraq in response to the attacks on U.S. service members, killing a Kata’ib Hezbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on U.S. forces in the region,” the statement said.
“There are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties at this time. The United States will continue to take necessary action to protect our people. We will not hesitate to hold responsible all those who threaten our forces’ safety.”
Kata’ib Hezbollah is one of many Iran-backed groups that form the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” which the Pentagon has blamed for attacking its troops.
The United States first began its retaliation against Iran-backed terrorists in Iraq and Syria last week, with an air campaign
that saw long-distance bombers drop 125 precision munitions on suspected terrorists.
That response has landed the Biden administration in hot water with Iraqi authorities, however, who claim that they were not notified of the strikes, which they say killed civilians
and Iraqi Security Forces personnel.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel clarified on Feb. 5 that the administration did not tell Iraqi officials about the strikes until after they occurred.
The administration maintains the targets were legitimate.
“These targets were carefully selected … We believe that these were credible targets and picked in a way to minimize and avoid civilian casualties,” Mr. Patel said.
Iraq’s foreign ministry issued a formal statement condemning the U.S. operation, including “Iraq’s rejection and denunciation of the American aggression that targeted Iraqi security forces as well as civilian sites.”
“The Iraqi government will exert all the efforts required by ethical, national, and constitutional responsibility to protect our lands, cities, and the lives of our civilians and all security forces,” the statement added.
Despite the Biden administration’s efforts to deter further violence in the Middle East, U.S. troops have continued to come under attack almost every day since the retaliation strikes began.
Hawkish members of Congress have demanded that the president initiate strikes inside Iran, which the administration claims is ultimately responsible for the attacks due to its material and operational support of terrorist groups in the region.
Early photographs of the scene appear to show the strike was initiated by a drone against a moving car in the eastern part of the Iraqi capital.
The strike may be seen as a major escalation in violence as the U.S. military has contented itself with military operations on the rural border with Syria until now.
The operation also marks the United States’ first targeting of an individual believed to be responsible for the attack in Jordan. Last week’s bombing campaign targeted infrastructure associated with munitions and rockets.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has regularly claimed strikes on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, which it claims are in retaliation for the United States’ support of Israel’s war in Gaza.
Washington denies that the strikes are related to the Israel-Hamas conflict, but a ceasefire in November saw a cessation of violence in Iraq and Syria as well.
U.S. forces have been attacked in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan more than 160 times since Israel began its invasion of Gaza following the deadly Oct. 7 terror attack by Hamas.
President Biden has said that he will pursue a multi-tiered response against those responsible for the deadly attack in Jordan while stopping short of a war with Iran.