US-led coalition denies bombing Iraqi militia near Syrian border

BAGHDAD/WASHINGTON: The US-led coalition fighting IS denied responsibility on Tuesday for an attack near the Syrian border, which killed dozens of members of an Iraqi militia and, that group said, several of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
A spokesman for the Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada militia said 36 of its fighters had been killed in the attack on Monday and 75 others were wounded and receiving treatment.
“We hold the American army responsible for this act,” the militia said in a statement late on Monday, noting that they were targeted with smart rockets.
The US-led coalition, which is attacking IS militants from the air in Syria and Iraq, said the allegations were “inaccurate” and denied conducting air attacks in that area at the time.
In a statement circulated by its supporters, IS claimed it was responsible for the attack and said it had captured armoured vehicles, weapons and ammunition. The Iraqi Defence Ministry declined to comment.
As IS is driven back by an array of forces in Iraq and Syria, its opponents and their regional patrons are
vying for control of territory and seeking to secure their interests in the wider region within a shrinking battlespace.
Monday’s attack took place near At Tanf in Syria, where US forces have twice before struck the militia in defence of a garrison used by US and US-backed forces.
Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada is part of an umbrella of Iraqi paramilitary groups known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, which is answerable to Baghdad.
In an interview with Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Abu Ala Welayi, Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada’s leader, accused the US and IS of jointly attacking his forces.
He said seven Revolutionary Guards had been killed, one of them being Hossein Qomi, their main commander and strategist.
No spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards was immediately available to comment.
Fourth year: The US-led coalition campaign to destroy the IS group in Iraq and Syria enters its fourth year this week, and the Pentagon believes the militants’ defeat is inevitable.
On August 8, 2014 two FA-18 jets launched from the USS George W Bush aircraft carrier in the Gulf and dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on IS fighters near Arbil in northern Iraq.
The action marked the beginning of an intense aerial bombardment that was later augmented by the training and equipping of local forces to fight IS, first in Iraq and then in Syria.
 — Reuters/AFP

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