BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi security forces have raided the headquarters of an Iran-backed militia near Baghdad, seizing rockets and detaining more than a dozen pro-Iran fighters.
The militia group targeted was Kataib Hezbollah, also identified as Brigade 45 of the Hashed al-Shaabi military force, Iraqi government officials said on Friday. The country’s elite Counterterrorism Service (CTS) carried out the raid, they said.
“Based on intelligence information, a Counterterrorism Service unit raided a base used by Brigade 45, seizing three rocket launchers and arresting thirteen fighters,” one of the officials said, according to AFP.
Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has indicated that he will be tough on militia groups that target U.S. installations. The raid, which the reports said took place early on Thursday, was the first carried out by Iraqi military forces against a group accused of targeting U.S. facilities.
Since October, nearly 3 dozen attacks have targeted U.S. interests in Iraq, including military bases, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and U.S. oil companies. The attacks have killed Iraqi, U.S., and British military personnel.
The United States has blamed Kataib Hezbollah for the attacks and has retaliated twice. It also has pressured Baghdad to take tougher action against the group.
There was no immediate comment from Iraqi militia groups or from Iran.
One of the three leaders detained in the raid was an Iranian, a government official told Reuters. The official said the three detained leaders were handed over to the U.S. military. But a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq said he ‘doubted’ that Iraqi authorities had handed over the detainees.
In January, the United States killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike at Baghdad airport.
Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters