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Iraqi forces raid Iranian-backed militia’s HQ near Baghdad

An Iraqi Army soldier assigned to 1st Company, 2nd Battalion, 37th Regiment, 9th Infantry Division conducts a patrol in a neighborhood in the Al Karradhah district of eastern Baghdad, Dec 31, 2008. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Licea, 3rd BCT PAO, 82nd Abn. Div., MND-B)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

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 June 26. The country’s elite Counterterrorism Service (CTS) carried out raid, they said.

“Based on intelligence information, a Counterterrorism Service unit raided a base used by Brigade 45, seizing three rocket launchers and arresting 13 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 June 25, was the first carried out by Iraqi military forces against a group accused of targeting U.S. facilities.

Since October, nearly three 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.