Iraqi militia leader warns of strong response to US air strikes

Iraqi militia leader warns of strong response to US air strikes
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An Iraqi militia leader reportedly warned of a strong response to the U.S. after five airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed militias hit Iraq and Syria. 

“The blood of the martyrs will not be in vain and our response will be very tough on the American forces in Iraq,” senior commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, also known by Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, said late on Sunday, according to Reuters

Iran said it strongly condemned the raids as “terrorism,” according to Reuters.

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Reuters reports that Iraqi security and militia said at least 25 militia fighters were killed and at least 55 were wounded after the three airstrikes in Iraq. 

Al-Mohandes is a senior commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and formerly headed the Kata’ib Hezbollah group, according to Reuters. He is also one of Iran’s most powerful allies in Iraq, the newswire notes. 

The U.S. launched F-15 Strike Eagles at the five targets, including two in Eastern Syria, that U.S. officials said were associated with Kata’ib Hezbollah. 

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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRussia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Winter is here for Democrats Overnight Defense & National Security — Nuclear states say no winners in global war MORE, speaking alongside Esper on Sunday, said the airstrikes were a “decisive response” to what he said were threats against American forces, something that “has been going on now for weeks and weeks and weeks.” 

Earlier this month Pompeo blamed Iranian-backed forces for a series of attacks on bases in Iraq and said any attacks would be “answered with a decisive U.S. response.”

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei denied Iran had “any role in the attack on American forces,” Reuters reports, citing the semi-official news agency Fars. 

“This claim without any evidence cannot justify bombing and killing people in violation of international law,” he said.