New airstrikes targeted the leader of an Iraqi militia group widely believed to be controlled by Iran, in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to reports out of the region. As of about 6 p.m. ET in the United States, there had been no further confirmation of the attacks, or of who carried them out. But the reported strikes came less than 24 hours after a dramatic U.S. drone attack killed top Iranian military leader General Qassem Soleimani in an attack at Baghdad Airport in Iraq.
The attacks on a convoy of military vehicles traveling north of Baghdad, in the rural district of Taji, killed six people and wounded three more, according to an initial report by Reuters. The targets were reportedly top figures in the Kataib Imam Ali militia, a paramilitary group in Iraq believed to be connected to the Iranian government.
But the new attacks were reported only about two hours after Donald Trump — at a brief press conference at his Mar-a-Lago vacation resort in Palm Beach, Florida — said that he did not want war with Iran, according to a Politico report.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump claimed in the exchange with reporters in Florida, referring to the previous night’s assassination by drone strike of Soleimani. Trump added that he did not seek regime change in Iran.
— Baxtiyar Goran (@BaxtiyarGoran) January 3, 2020
According to the Reuters report, citing an Iraqi military source, the new attacks took place at 1:12 a.m. in Iraq — or 5:12 p.m. ET in the U.S. The Iraqi source told Reuters that two of the three vehicles in the convoy were burned in the strikes, and “six burned corpses” were recovered from the wreckage.
The strikes targeted militia leaders affiliated with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an organization of Iranian-affiliated Shi’ite militias — the same organization believed to be behind Tuesday’s siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Earlier on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said that “we don’t seek war with Iran,” adding that Trump has been “pretty clear” on that point.
But neither Trump nor Pompeo would spell out the next U.S. steps in the suddenly escalated conflict with Iran, even as leaders in Tehran vowed revenge for the killing of Soleimani, according to Politico.
Iraqi state television also reported the early-Saturday attacks, according to The Jerusalem Post, which also reported that Al-Manar — a Lebanese media outlet that supports the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah — also reported the airstrikes north of Baghdad.