Kataib Hezbollah commander Abu Baqir Al-Saadi was blown up in his vehicle on Wednesday, prompting militia calls for an attack on the American embassy in the Iraqi capital
A US drone strike killed a senior Iran-backed militant in Baghdad, threatening to take Washington and Tehran closer to war.
Kataib Hezbollah commander Abu Baqir Al-Saadi and two of his guards were fatally injured in the precision attack on their vehicle. The militia is said to have been behind a drone strike that killed three US soldiers in Jordan.
Al-Saadi was blown up in the Mashtal neighbourhood in eastern Baghdad on Wednesday evening. The blast sparked militia calls for attacks on the American embassy in Iraq’s capital, as the US put all of its Middle East bases on high alert. The latest violence, sparked by the war in Gaza, is fuelling tensions between the US and Iran, with the risk of all-out conflict.
A senior security source told the Mirror: “Rocket attacks by Iranian militia have been going on for some time and the Pentagon was getting impatient with this. Even before October 7 the US was planning on how to respond to Iran, but the war in Gaza and its support for Israel has meant it needed to try not escalate further. So the attacks on Iran’s proxies are a warning to Tehran whilst falling short of the threshold for all-out conflict by launching strikes inside Iran.
“But it will run out of serious targets if this escalated further and the US may green-light
strikes inside Iran, triggering a far greater conflict.” Kataib Hezbollah announced the deaths “following the bombing of the American occupation forces”.
US Central Command said “there are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties at this time.” It added the White House “will not hesitate to hold responsible all those who threaten our forces’ safety”.
The strike came days after the US launched an air assault on dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It was in retaliation for a drone strike that killed three US troops and injured more than 40 others at a base in Jordan on January 28.
The US has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed militias such as Kataib Hezbollah, for the attack in Jordan. The Islamic Resistance has regularly claimed strikes on bases for US troops in Iraq and Syria amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The Gaza conflict has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 65,000. It was sparked after Hamas killed 1,200 people in Israel on October 7. There have been nearly 170 attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since October 18 but the drone strike in Jordan was the first to kill US lives.
The US has struck back about six times since October 27, targeting weapons sites, command centres and training facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian-backed groups. The US attack in Iraq’s capital on Wednesday drew comparisons to a 2020 drone strike in Baghdad.
It killed Iran’s Quds Force leader Gen Qassem Soleimani in response to attacks on US bases there. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected terms proposed by Hamas for a hostage release agreement that would lead to a permanent ceasefire. Also on Wednesday, the press office of Houthi rebels in Yemen reported two airstrikes in Ras Issa in the Salif district in Hodeida province.