U.S. military kills Hezbollah Brigades fighter in strike in Iraq

The U.S. military killed a fighter from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Brigades in an airstrike in western Iraq on Nov. 21. The Hezbollah Brigades fighter had previously attacked U.S. troops at the Ain al-Asad Air Base.

“A U.S. AC-130 gunship carried out an airstrike on a vehicle in the proximity of al-Asad airbase in Iraq, killing several Iran-affiliated militants,” Liz Friden from Fox News reported. “The vehicle carried out an attack on al-Asad in the last 24 hours,” a U.S. defense official told Friden.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a front for Iranian-backed militias, confirmed that one “martyr,” known as Fadil al-Maksusi, was killed “in the battle of truth against falsehood embodied by the American occupation forces in Iraq.” Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, one of the larger Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria, congratulated Hezbollah Brigades on al-Maksusi’s death.

Hezbollah Brigades is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and is led by Ahmad al-Hamidawi. Hezbollah Brigades was founded by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, who was listed by the U.S. government as a specially designated global terrorist in July 2009 and was described as “an advisor to” former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani. Muhandis, along with Qaiz Khazali, played a key role in the Shia militias’ formation and subsequent attacks on U.S., Coalition, and Iraqi forces. The U.S. killed Muhandis and Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad in 2020.

Hezbollah Brigades receives training, funds, weapons, intelligence and other key aid from the Qods Force. The terror group is responsible for killing hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq. Despite this, Hezbollah Brigades is part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, which is an official, independent military arm of the Iraqi government.

Today’s attack that killed the Hezbollah Brigades fighter is what the U.S. military has described as a self-defensive strike, or a strike that is designed to prevent an attack on U.S. or allied forces. The U.S. military has launched numerous self-defensive strikes in Somalia as it battles Shabaab.

The U.S. military has launched three other strikes against Iranian-backed militias, but they were unlike today’s strike. Those three strikes, all of which took place in Syria and hit weapons depots and a safe house, were designed to deter the militias from attacking U.S. forces. The militias have launched more than 60 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria using drones, rockets, mortars, missiles, and IEDs. Dozens of American soldiers have been wounded in the militia attacks.

Nearly all of these attacks have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI), which was established in 2020 to serve as a clearinghouse for smaller Iran-backed militias. These smaller militias themselves are offshoots or fronts of more established, more prominent militias such as Hezbollah Brigades, Asaib Ahl-al Haq, Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada. The IRI adds another layer of plausible deniability for Iran, which directs and supports these proxy militias behind the scenes.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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