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“Strike Takes Out Iraq Militia Boss in Baghdad: US Official Report

The United States has carried out an airstrike targeting a senior leader of an Iraqi militia based in Baghdad, a senior Iraqi security official confirmed. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), was killed in the strike which was aimed at a convoy at Baghdad International Airport on Friday. The PMU, also known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, is an umbrella organization of pro-government mainly Shi’ite militias backed by Iran. Al-Muhandis was a close ally of the Iraqi Shi’ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. The strike was carried out in coordination with the Iraqi government, the official said, but he did not elaborate further. The US Embassy in Baghdad announced that US forces had conducted a strike targeting “an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader in response to recent attacks on US personnel in Iraq.” The US had blamed the PMU for a recent attack on an Iraqi base hosting US forces in Kirkuk, in which a US contractor was killed and four US personnel was wounded. The PMU had denied involvement in the attack. The strike against al-Muhandis is likely to further increase tensions between the US and Iran, which has been a key ally of the PMU. The targeted strike comes less than a week after US President Donald Trump threatened unspecified consequences if Iranian forces tried to harm Americans or US assets. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the US strike as a “flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” saying the move was not coordinated with the government in Baghdad. The airstrike has drawn widespread condemnation from Iraqi Shia groups, and adds to rising tensions in the region. It is unclear at this point what the wider consequences of the US strike may be, but the security situation in Iraq is likely to be further complicated by these developments.