US forces have been conducting a series of attacks against pro-Iranian militias in Iraq

WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD, Nov 21 (Reuters) – The United States has carried out two strikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq, U.S. officials said on Tuesday. region.

Until this week, the US was reluctant to retaliate in Iraq because of the delicate political situation there.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani has limited control over Iran-backed militias, whose support he needed to win power a year ago.

The US military said in a statement that the attack targeted two facilities in Iraq on Tuesday evening.

“These attacks are a direct response to attacks by Iran and Iran-backed groups against US and coalition forces,” the statement said.

A U.S. defense official said the warplane strike targeted and destroyed a Qateb Hezbollah operational center and a Qateb Hezbollah command and control center near Al Anbar and Zurf al Saqr, south of Baghdad.

Iraq’s Qadab Hezbollah militia is a powerful armed group with close ties to Iran.

The official said Qatab Hezbollah operatives were present, but casualties were being assessed.

About 24 hours earlier, U.S. forces were attacked at an air base west of Baghdad, and U.S. military AC-130 aircraft responded in self-defence, killing several pro-Iranian fighters, U.S. officials said.

Ain al-Asad air base was hit by a short-range missile, resulting in eight injuries and minor damage to infrastructure, two U.S. officials said.

The U.S. has so far limited its response to three separate strikes in Syria, out of 66 attacks against its forces in Iraq and neighboring Syria claimed by Iraqi militias aligned with Iran.

At least 62 US personnel suffered minor injuries or traumatic brain injuries in the attacks.

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The attacks began on October 17 and follow attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has been linked to US-backed Iraqi militant groups bombing Gaza.

Attacks against U.S. targets Iraqi units, formed to fight alongside U.S. troops after the 2003 U.S. invasion, and others to fight Islamic State in 2014, ended a year-long unilateral ceasefire declared with Washington.

Social media accounts linked to the Iran-aligned Iraqi militia on Tuesday posted a statement titled “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” to mourn a member it said had been killed in combat against US forces.

His killing was the first casualty in Iraq linked to the Gaza war, which has drawn on other factions in Iran’s regional militant network, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, in the so-called Axis of Resistance.

The US has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq.

Reporting by Timor Azhari in Baghdad, Bill Stewart and Ali Idris in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Alexandra Hudson, Chisu Nomiyama, Mark Porter and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Focused on the Pentagon in Washington DC, the national security correspondent reports on US military operations and operations around the world and the impact they have. It has reported from more than two dozen countries covering Iraq, Afghanistan and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.

Bill Stewart has reported from more than 60 countries, including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and South Sudan. An award-winning Washington-based national security correspondent, Bill has appeared on NPR, PBS NewsHour, Fox News and other programs and moderated national security events, including the Reagan National Security Forum and the German Marshall Fund. He is the Edwin M. for Diplomatic Correspondence. Hood Award and Joe Galloway Award recipient.

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