Retaliatory strikes kill 18 Iraqi fighters in Syria after deadly Iraq base attack

Retaliatory strikes kill 18 Iraqi fighters in Syria after deadly Iraq base attack
Suspected US-led coalition strikes on Syria's Albukamal region killed at least 18 Iraqi militia fighters on Thursday, just hours after an attack killed coalition forces in Iraq.
4 min read
12 March, 2020
The retaliatory strikes targeted Iraq's pro-Iran militia forces [Getty]
At least 18 fighters from an Iraqi paramilitary group were killed in air strikes in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, just hours after a deadly attack on US-led coalition forces in Iraq.

"The 18 Iraqi fighters" were killed in raids on positions of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi military network in the area of Albukamal, on the border with Iraq, the observatory said.

Bombardment from three coalition planes struck the Imam Ali base and the Al-Hassyan area in the Albukamal region near the border with Iraq, where pro-Iranian militias are based, the monitor said.

It is unclear who exactly was killed in the retaliatory strikes, though some reports named senior militia leaders including leader of the leader of the Haideriyoun Brigade, Wassim Tufaili.

The strikes came just hours after rockets were fired at a military base in Iraq, killing two Americans and one Briton.

Ten rockets hit the military base in the 22nd attack against American military interests in Iraq since late October, an Iraqi military commander said earlier.

The attack against the Taji base wounded foreign coalition members, a coalition official told AFP late on Wednesday, describing the injuries as ranging from "light to critical".

Previous rocket attacks targeting US soldiers, diplomats and facilities in Iraq have killed one US contractor and an Iraqi soldier.

None of the attacks have been claimed, but Washington accuses pro-Iran factions of being responsible.

Two days after the death of an American in rockets fired on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk at the end of last year, the US army hit five bases in Iraq and Syria used by the pro-Iran armed faction Kataeb Hezbollah.

Tensions then rose further between arch foes Washington and Tehran, leading to the assassination in Baghdad on January 3 of the powerful Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary commander in a US drone strike.

Read more: ‘They’re the virus’: Iraq coronavirus outbreak refuels anti-government protests

Iran retaliated by launching a volley of missiles at an Iraqi base hosting US soldiers days later.

The US leads an international coalition - comprised of dozens of countries and thousands of soldiers - formed in Iraq in 2014 to confront the Islamic State jihadist group.

While IS has lost its territory, sleeper cells remain capable of carrying out attacks.

The Iraqi parliament voted to expel all foreign soldiers from the country in the wake of the killing of Soleimani, a decision that must be executed by the government.

The outgoing government, which resigned in December in the face of mass protests, has yet to be replaced due to a lack of agreement in parliament - one of the most divided in Iraq's recent history.

The border town of Albukamal has been a key supply route for the pro-Iranian militias, which have on several occasions been targeted in mystery strikes in recent months.

Israel is thought to be behind hundreds of strikes on Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and militia positions in Syria, though Thursday morning's strike is more likely to be a direct response from the US-led coalition in the region.


Iraq remains mired in turmoil, with protesters calling for sweeping changes and a decisive end to the current system, imposed after the 2003 US occupation of the country, which marked the inception of a ruling system shaped by sectarian and religious division.

They reject the appointment of Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, whom they see as part of the very elite they are trying to overthrow.

Sporadic protests continue to erupt in cities in southern and central regions of Iraq, despite measures banning public gatherings to combat the rapid spread of the novel Coronavirus, which has so far claimed the lives of 7 Iraqis out of a total of 71 confirmed cases.

On Tuesday, local medical sources told The New Arab’s Arabic language sister-site that four Iraqi anti-government protesters were killed and 80 injured.

The youngest victim was a 13-year-old child, the source added.

Some 600 have been killed in the bloody violence, according to Amnesty International, with large swathes subject to torture and abduction by security authorities.

Iraqi security officials on Wednesday reported that unidentified gunmen killed two anti-government activists, named as Abdel-Aaddous Qasim and Karrar Adil, in Maysan province, south of the country.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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