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US drone strike in Baghdad kills Iran-backed militia commander, US officials say

A US drone strike in Baghdad has killed three members of the powerful Kata'ib Hezbollah militia, including a high-ranking commander, according to US officials.

The drone strike hit a car in the Iraqi capital - and was in response to a drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan towards the end of January.

Sky News' Alex Crawford arrived at the scene shortly after the blast and said there was "great tension" and a "great deal of anger towards America".

"There has been a furious response about the killing," she said.

"The locals round here are demanding an investigation by the Iraqi government, demanding that there is revenge.

"There is a great deal of anger, a great deal of tension here."

Crowds gathered as emergency response teams picked through the wreckage.

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The US has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a broad coalition of Iran-backed militias, for the attack in Jordan on its forces, and officials have said they suspect Kata'ib Hezbollah, in particular, of leading it.

The strike on Wednesday night hit a main road in the Mashtal neighbourhood in eastern Baghdad.

A US official said that a senior Kata'ib Hezbollah commander was targeted in the strike.

Two officials with Iran-backed militias in Iraq said that one of the three killed was Wissam Mohammed "Abu Bakr" al Saadi, the commander in charge of Kata'ib Hezbollah's operations in Syria.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to journalists.

Security forces closed off the heavily guarded Green Zone, where a number of diplomatic compounds are located, amid calls for protesters to storm the US embassy.

Kata'ib Hezbollah earlier said in a statement that it was suspending attacks on American troops to avoid "embarrassing the Iraqi government" after the strike in Jordan, but others have vowed to continue fighting.

It comes after three soldiers were killed and more than 40 others injured in a drone strike on the Tower 22 military base in Jordan.

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US officials previously said they believed Kata'ib Hezbollah to be one of several factions behind the attack, which claimed the lives of William Jerome Rivers, 46, Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23.

President Joe Biden promised a strong US response.

Kata'ib Hezbollah, an Iraq-based militant group thought to have ties to Iran, was founded in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and views American troops as foreign occupiers.

The US designated the group a terrorist organisation in 2009, and an American drone strike killed its leader Abu Mahdi al Muhandis in 2020 at Baghdad airport.

Since 18 October, there have been 166 attacks on US military installations, according to officials in Washington.

They are said to include 67 attacks in Iraq, 98 in Syria and the one at Tower 22 in Jordan.