Iraq, US-led Coalition Deny Reports of US Airstrike Against Iran-Backed Militia Near Baghdad

Iraq and the U.S.-led coalition denied reports of fresh airstrikes near Baghdad late Jan. 3.

Reuters, Newsweek, and The Associated Press were among the news agencies to report that airstrikes on Friday night hit an Iraqi militia convoy north of Baghdad, killing at least six people.

The militia was backed by Iran, the reports said. Reporters cited anonymous officials, the Popular Mobilization Forces, and Iraqi state TV in reporting on the strikes, asserting the United States carried out them out.

But official sources pushed back on the reports, including Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, a U.S.-led coalition formed to defeat ISIS.

“FACT: The Coalition @CJTFOIR did NOT conduct airstrikes near Camp Taji (north of Baghdad) in recent days,” he said. CJTFOIR is another name for the operation.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command also disputed the reports.

“The Joint Operations Command denies reports in the media of an airstrike last night, targeting a column of the popular mobilization in the Taji area north of Baghdad, and calls for accuracy in the transmission of information and caution against spreading rumors and spreading rumors, especially for the time being,” it stated.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, a grouping of militia groups, including some Iran-backed ones, said in a statement early Saturday that a strike hit a convoy consisting of medics. It later said in another statement that no medical convoys were targeted in the Taji area, according to Reuters.

The rebuttal of the reports came after the U.S. military said a report of an attack on Al Asad Air Base was false.

Iraq Airport Attack
A burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, early on Jan. 2, 2020. (HO, Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via AP)

An Iranian news agency reported that the airbase, the largest U.S. base in Iraq, was attacked. The story spread to other Iranian news outlets and was circulated by The New York Times.

Tensions are high in Iraq after the United States killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the country’s elite Quds Force, overnight on Jan. 3.

President Donald Trump and other U.S. leaders said they killed Soleimani because he was planning attacks on U.S. troops.

“There would have been many Muslims killed as well—Iraqis, people in other countries as well. It was a strike that was aimed at both disrupting that plot, deterring further aggression, and we hope setting the conditions for deescalation as well,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

Iran vowed to take revenge but has not taken any action as of yet.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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