Iran-backed militant group vowing revenge after U.S. airstrikes kill 25 in Iraq, Syria

A militia group backed by Iran is vowing revenge against the United States following airstrikes that killed at least 25 of its members, reports said Monday.

The U.S. military launched strikes in Iraq and Syria against the militia fighters, prompting the group to vow a response to the “aggression of evil American ravens.”

The statement came in Baghdad a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon carried out the strikes after the Iraqi-based militia conducted a rocket attack that left an American contractor dead in Iraq last week.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday the strikes are sending the message that the U.S. won’t tolerate any actions by Iran that endanger American lives.

The U.S. military said “precision defensive strikes” were conducted against five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq and Syria.

“Our battle with America and its mercenaries is now open to all possibilities,” Kataeb Hezbollah said in a statement around midnight Sunday. “We have no alternative today other than confrontation and there is nothing that will prevent us from responding to this crime.”

The Trump administration blamed the militia for a rocket barrage Friday that killed a U.S. defense contractor at a military compound near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.

Military officials said as many as 30 rockets were fired in that attack.

Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades, a separate force from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, operates under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Associated Press reported.

Many of the groups are materially and financially supported by Iran.

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah also blasted the “brutal American aggression,” saying those who took the decision to carry out the attack “will soon discover how stupid this criminal decision was.”

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