U.S. kills commander in Iranian-backed militia in Baghdad strike

The U.S. military killed an influential commander of Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, a powerful Iranian-backed militia based in Iraq and Syria, in an airstrike in Baghdad on Thursday. The commander also served in the Popular Mobilization Forces, which is an official branch of Iraq’s military.

Thursday’s strike marked just the seventh by the U.S. against the Iranian-backed militias, which have launched 115 attack on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. The first six U.S. attacks targeted weapons storage facilities, safe houses or vehicles involved in attacks. This was the first to target a commander of the militias.

The U.S. military did not officially confirm the strike, however an anonymous official told The Wall Street Journal that the target “had American blood on his hands.”

The Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba commander who was killed was Abu Taqwa Al Si’adi, according to Entifadh Qanbar, the President of the Kurdish Protection Action Committee. The strike killed Si’adi and his driver as they entered the headquarters of the Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba in Baghdad, according to Qanbar.

According to Qanbar, Si’adi was “a notorious terrorist” who was “very close to Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis,” the former head of the Popular Mobilization Forces who was killed by the U.S. military on Jan. 3, 2020 alongside Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps leader General Qassem Soleimani. Muhandis and Soleimani were responsible for establishing the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

In addition to his role as a leader within Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, Si’adi also served as the deputy director of operations for the Popular Mobilization Forces in what is known as the Baghdad Belts, or the regions surrounding Baghdad.

Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba is an Iranian proxy formed in 2013 from elements of Hezbollah Brigades and Asaib Ahl al Haq to support Syrian President Bashir al Assad in its fight against the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and insurgent groups. It is is led by Akram Abbas al Kabi, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist who previously served as a senior commander in both the Mahdi Army and Asaib Ahl al Haq. Harakat al Nujaba receives training, funds, weapons, intelligence and other key aid from Iran’s Qods Force. The U.S. government listed Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization in March 2019.

Thursday’s strike by the U.S., as well as previous strikes, have been condemned by the Iraqi government. In a statement released earlier today by Iraq’s Prime Minister, Major General Yahya Abdullah described the attack as “a blatant violation of the sovereignty and security of Iraq” and “an act no different from terrorist acts,” and called those who were killed “martyrs.”

Last week, after condemning U.S. airstrikes that targeted three Hezbollah Brigades facilities, Iraq’s Prime Minister said it was time for the U.S. military to leave Iraq.

“The Iraqi government is proceeding with ending the presence of the international coalition forces, which include advisors in the fields of training, advice and intelligence cooperation, in light of the presence of capable Iraqi forces,” Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani said.

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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