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Iraq condemns US air strikes on Iran-backed militias on Syria border

US warplanes targeted arms depots and operational facilities in Iraq and Syria
Iran-backed militias threatened to retaliate against US interests in Iraq after the strikes. Screengrab shows moment US warplanes struck its target on Iraqi-Syria border (Screengrab)

The Iraqi government condemned the United States on Monday for conducting air raids on Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria that killed four fighters following a drone strike that struck US personnel in Iraq. 

Footage posted online showed the moment US warplanes struck targets in Iraq and Syria. The US army said the strikes late on Sunday targeted arms depots and operational facilities at two locations in Iraq and one in Syria. 

“The United States took necessary, appropriate and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation - but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” John Kirby, spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement.

He added that one of the locations the US targeted on Sunday included a facility that was used to launch and recover the drones. 

But the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a coalition of Iraqi militias who are mostly Shia Muslims, denied US claims it targeted an arms depot and said the attack took place at 2am on Monday.  

Armed groups aligned with Iran confirmed four fighters from the Kataib Sayyid Al Shuhada faction had been killed by the strike and vowed to "retaliate and take revenge". 

'Unacceptable violation'

In a rare rebuke, Baghdad condemned the air strikes and described them as an "unacceptable" violation of its sovereignty. 

"We condemn the US air attack that targeted a site last night on the Iraqi-Syrian border, which represents a blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security in accordance with all international conventions," an Iraqi spokesperson from the armed forces said in a statement. 

"Iraq renews its refusal to be an arena for settling accounts, and clings to its right to sovereignty over its lands, and to prevent it from being used as an arena for reactions and attacks.

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"We call for calm and to avoid escalation in all its forms, stressing that Iraq will carry out the necessary investigations, procedures and contacts at various levels to prevent such violations." 

The PMF also described the attack as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. 

The air strikes come as US President Joe Biden pushes to revive the Iran nuclear deal that was thrown out by his predecessor Donald Trump. 

Biden is also scheduled to meet Israel's outgoing president Reuven Rivlin in Washington on Monday, and is set to offer reassurance to Israel about a return to the Iran deal that his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.

The Syrian government-backed SANA news agency also said one child and three other people were wounded by US air strikes. 

Since the start of the year, Iran-backed militias have carried out at least 40 attacks against US interests in Iraq. 

Two US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Iran-backed militias had carried out five drone attacks in Iraq used by American personnel since April.