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Iran-backed militia leader reported dead after strike at Baghdad airport In this photo from social media, a burning car is shown after a rocket attack on the Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, 2020. IRAQ MINISTRY OF DEFENCE/FACEBOOK By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: January 2, 2020 An early-morning strike hit the Baghdad International Airport perimeter, near the air cargo terminal, the Iraqi government said Friday. The attack, which set two cars ablaze, apparently occurred at about 1 a.m. Social media users posted hearing the explosions, then the sounds of military aircraft. The Iraqi defense ministry’s security information cell confirmed the strike about 45 minutes later, posting photos of the burning vehicles on its Facebook page and attributing the damage to a rocket attack. Later, security sources told local media a strike hit two vehicles, killing Mohammed Redha, a senior member of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units — an umbrella group that includes Iran-backed Shiite militias with close ties to Iran and other militias that have fought the Islamic State group since 2014. Other PMU members and “guests” were also killed, the PMU said. Initial reports were unclear on whether there was a rocket attack and a separate counter-strike targeting the vehicles. The U.S.-led coalition did not immediately respond to an inquiry on the matter. The reported strike occurred hours after Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Iran and its proxies to end malign behavior in the region, where tensions between Washington and Tehran have been rising since May. “We will not accept continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region,” Esper said in a statement on Thursday. “Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner, and place of our choosing.” The Pentagon has blamed a PMU militia called Kataeb Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization strongly linked with Iran, for a series of rocket strikes targeting bases housing U.S. troops throughout the country. As of Saturday, there had been 11 such rocket attacks since October — including two on an installation located next to the Baghdad airport in early December. Those attacks wounded several Iraqi troops, prompting U.S. officials to call on Iraq to do more to prevent them and warning of decisive action if such attacks continued. Last Friday, a rocket strike on the K1 base in Kirkuk left an American civilian contractor dead, and six service members wounded — four Americans and two Iraqis. After that deadly attack, the U.S. launched a series of airstrikes on Sunday targeting bases in Iraq and Syria used by Kataeb Hezbollah. Esper also ordered a contingent of some 750 infantry troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division deployed to the Middle East in response to the increased threat in the region, adding to about 14,000 sent since last summer. More would be on standby to deploy in the coming days, he said. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/iran-backed-militia-leader-reported-dead-after-strike-at-baghdad-airport-1.613351