BAGHDAD – Iraq's military said five security force members and a civilian were killed early Friday in a barrage of U.S. airstrikes launched hours after a rocket attack killed and wounded American and British servicemen at a base north of Baghdad.
An Iran-backed Shiite militia group vowed to exact revenge for the U.S. strikes, potentially signalling another cycle of tit-for-tat violence between Washington and Tehran that could play out inside Iraq.
U.S. officials said the airstrikes' intended targets were mainly weapons facilities belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, the militia group believed to be responsible for Wednesday's attack on Camp Taji base.
However, Iraq's military said the strikes killed three Iraqi army commandos and two federal police officers. A Shiite endowment in the holy city of Karbala said the strikes resulted in the death of one civilian in an airport complex being constructed by the endowment.
A gaping crater was left in the wake of the U.S. airstrike outside Karbala's defunct airport. Iraqi forces inspected an area covered in shards of glass and debris.
Kataib Hezbollah did not immediately comment on the airstrikes. But Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iran-backed militia group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., vowed to retaliate with “an eye for an eye” in a statement Friday.
The Iraqi military statement also said the U.S. strikes wounded five militia members belonging to the Popular Mobilization Units, an umbrella group that comprises an array of Iraqi militia groups, some of them Iran-backed.
Wednesday's attack on Camp Taji was the deadliest to target U.S. troops in Iraq since a late December rocket attack on an Iraqi base that killed a U.S. contractor and set in motion a series of tit-for-tat attacks that brought Iraq to the brink of war.