Abu Baqir al-Saadi of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group has been killed in eastern Baghdad, officials say.

A senior commander from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed armed group in Iraq that the Pentagon linked to an attack that killed three US troops, died in a drone strike on a vehicle in eastern Baghdad, according to security sources and media reports.

One of the sources said three people were killed and that the vehicle targeted on Wednesday night was used by Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a state security agency composed of dozens of armed groups, many of them close to Iran.

Two officials with Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq said that senior commander Abu Baqir al-Saadi was among those killed, the Associated Press news agency reported. Local outlet Sabereen News also reported al-Saadi had been killed in the blast.

Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem, reporting from Baghdad, said that “several explosions” were heard across the Iraqi capital and that security sources said three people have been killed.

Hashem said that the area where the attack took place, east of Baghdad, is “known to be a stronghold for armed factions”.

Kataib Hezbollah fighters and commanders are part of the PMF, a coalition of mainly pro-Iran paramilitaries now integrated into Iraq’s regular security forces.

Three United States troops were killed in January in a drone attack near the Jordan-Syria border that the Pentagon said bore the “footprints” of Kataib Hezbollah. The group then announced it was suspending military operations against US troops in the region.

Iraq and Syria have witnessed near-daily tit-for-tat attacks between Iran-backed armed groups and US forces stationed in the region since the Israeli assault on Gaza began in October.

There was no immediate comment from US officials on the blast.

The US struck Iran-backed Iraqi groups in Iraq and Syria last weekend in what it said was the beginning of its response to the killing of the three US soldiers in a drone attack.

In January, a US drone strike killed a senior militia commander in central Baghdad, an attack Washington said came in response to drone and rocket attacks on its forces.

On Wednesday, Iraqi special forces were on high alert in Baghdad and further units were deployed inside the Green Zone housing international diplomatic missions including the US embassy, a security source said.



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