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Iran, Iraq governments condemn U.S. airstrikes targeting Iraqi militia

By
Don Jacobson
Iraqi President Barham Salih, seen here at the United Nations in September, denounced weekend U.S. air strikes targeting Iran-backed Iraqi militias. File photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
Iraqi President Barham Salih, seen here at the United Nations in September, denounced weekend U.S. air strikes targeting Iran-backed Iraqi militias. File photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Deadly weekend airstrikes carried out by U.S. forces against members of an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia were condemned Monday by the governments of both Iran and Iraq.

The United States on Sunday carried out what it called "precision defensive strikes" in Western Iraq and Eastern Syria targeting the Iraqi paramilitary group Kata'ib Hezbollah, which the United States claimed was responsible for recent attacks on bases hosting coalition forces in the region to help fight the terrorist group ISIS.

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One of those attacks on Friday killed an American civilian contractor on a base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah political and military organization, is part of a group of Shiite militias with strong ties to Iran and sanctioned by the state of Iraq, known as the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units.

The PMU said Sunday's U.S. airstrikes killed at least 25 militia members and injured 51.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the airstrikes "deplorable military aggression against the Iraqi soil" and labeled the action "a clear sign of terrorism."

Contending that Iran-backed Iraqi militias have played a key role in the fight against ISIS, Mousavi alleged that the U.S. goal in Iraq and Syria is actually to target Iranian influence in the region.

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Iraqi President Barham Saleh, meanwhile, called the U.S. airstrikes "unacceptable" and considered them "an aggressive action and violation of Iraqi sovereignty."

Iraq's caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, released a statement saying he urged U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper not to carry out the strikes shortly before they were launched.

"Bombing PMU bases is a dangerous aggravation which endangers the security of Iraq and the region," he said.

Abdul-Mahdi resigned last month in the wake of mass uprisings in Iraq but has remained in a caretaker capacity.

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