US denies carrying out airstrike on Iran-backed militia convoy near Baghdad

Spokesman for US-led anti-Islamic State coalition says it did not carry out attack on Iraqi paramilitary force which reportedly killed 6 near Camp Taji

Iraqi Shiite fighters of the Popular Mobilization Forces secure the border area with Syria in al-Qaim in Iraq's Anbar province, opposite Al-Bukamal in Syria's Deir Ezzor region, on November 12, 2018. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
Illustrative: Iraqi Shiite fighters of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq's Anbar province, November 12, 2018. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State terror group denied Saturday it had carried out an airstrike near Camp Taji north of Baghdad, after six members of an Iran-backed militia were reported killed in a strike attributed to the US.

“FACT: the coalition @cjtfoir did not conduct airstrikes near Camp Taji (north of Baghdad) in recent days,” tweeted a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, Colonel Myles B Caggins.

The convoy was said to have been hit overnight near the Camp Taji military installation.

The Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of Iraqi militias, said the strike targeted a medical convoy. The group denied any of its top leaders were killed.

The strike hit two of the three vehicles traveling in the convoy.

The Lebanese al-Mayadeen news outlet, which has ties to Hezbollah, reported that the strike was carried out by a drone.

Pentagon officials had earlier reportedly confirmed the strike to Newsweek, saying it targeted the leader of the Imam Ali Brigades, Shubul al-Zaidi. The US officials told Newsweek that there was a “high probability” the attack killed al-Zaidi.

The airstrike comes a day after the US killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, who was closely tied to Shiite militia groups in Iraq.

The strike on Soleimani also killed the deputy chief of the Iraq militia Hashed al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi al-Muhanis, who was seen as Tehran’s man in Iraq, and came just days after Hashed supporters attacked the American embassy in Baghdad, provoking anger in Washington.

Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani (Screenshot)

A total of five Revolutionary Guards and five Hashed members were killed in the strike.

Their bodies were to be taken through an elaborate mourning procession on Saturday, beginning with a state funeral in Baghdad and ending in the holy shrine city of Najaf.

The bodies of the Guards would then be sent to Iran, which had declared three days of mourning for Soleimani.

Tehran has already named Soleimani’s deputy, Esmail Qaani, to succeed him.

Its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly promised “severe revenge” and tens of thousands of protesters in Tehran torched US flags and chanted “death to America.”

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