A top leader of an Iranian-backed militia group vowed a “tough” response to the US military’s airstrikes that targeted the terror group Kata’ib Hezbollah’s bases in Iraq and Syria.
“The blood of the martyrs will not be in vain and our response will be very tough on the American forces in Iraq,” senior commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, also known by Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, said late on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Iran described the attacks as “terrorism.”
Mohandes is a senior commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an organization of about 40 paramilitary groups mostly associated with Iran-backed Shiite militias.
He also is a main ally of Iran’s in Iraq and formerly headed up Kata’ib Hezbollah, the wire service said.
In Syria, the group is fighting alongside troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
F-15 jet fighters carried out the “defensive strikes” on five targets – three in Iraq and two in Syria – on Sunday in retaliation for a rocket attack Friday on an Iraqi base that killed an American citizen and wounded four US service members.
Reuters, citing Iraqi security and militia sources, said at least 25 militia fighters were killed and 55 were wounded in the airstrikes in Iraq.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday’s attack on the Iraqi base wasn’t the first that put Americans’ lives at risk.
“What we did was take a decisive response that makes clear what President Trump has said for months and months and months, which is that we will not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy,” Pompeo said alongside Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday at Mar-a-Lago where President Trump is spending the holidays.
In 2009, the US classified Kata’ib Hezbollah as a terror group.