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Iranian-backed militia says US strikes killed 25, vow revenge

An Iranian-backed militia on Monday vowed retaliation for U.S. strikes in Syria and Iraq, saying that the actions left 25 dead, according to The Associated Press.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed the strikes Sunday against Kata’ib Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq and Syria, after a rocket attack in Iraq that killed an American military contractor that the U.S. blamed on the militia, according to the AP.

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

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The militia has denied responsibility for a series of rocket attacks on U.S. bases, one of which killed the U.S. contractor

Militia spokesman Mohammed Mohieh told the AP the group would retaliate against the U.S. in a form to be determined by its commanders. “These forces must leave,” he said, in reference to the roughly 5,000 U.S. troops that remain in Iraq to aid Iraqi forces against ISIS.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the U.S. strikes an “obvious case of terrorism” that disregarded Iraqi sovereignty, while the Lebanon-based main Hezbollah organization called it “brutal American aggression” and said the U.S. “will soon discover how stupid this criminal decision was.”

Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned as Iraq’s prime minister last month amid anti-government protests but remains in a caretaker capacity, said he had spoken with Esper about half an hour before the U.S. strikes Sunday and that he had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Defense secretary to call off the strikes, according to the AP.

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