The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria denied killing dozens of Shi’ite militia fighters and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, in an artillery attack on Monday near the Syrian border. Earlier on Tuesday, the Iran-backed Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigade active in Anbar province, at the border between Iraq and Syria, accused the U.S. of launching the attack that left more than 40 fighters dead and 30 wounded, according to the latest Associated Press reports.
After the Iraqi militia claimed its positions were targeted with smart rockets launched from the area around Mosul, followed by a ground assault. Speaking to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Abu Ala Welayi, Sayyid al-Shuhada’s leader, accused the U.S. and Islamic State of jointly attacking his forces, vowing to take revenge. The U.S. coalition denied its involvement. “Allegations of Coalition strikes [against] Popular Mobilization Forces near Iraq-Syria border are inaccurate. No Coalition strikes there [at that time],” Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, tweeted.
Islamic State’s claimed responsibility through its news agency Amaq, announcing that its militants killed 68 soldiers in suicide bombing and raid, further contributing to the confusion about the details of the attack.
According to Reuters reports, the U.S. forces have attacked the Iranian-backed militia in the area twice so far, in defense of a garrison used by the U.S. and US-backed forces.
Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigade is one of the dozens of militias that are part of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units, which are under authority of Baghdad, but have a considerable number of groups answering to Iran’s clerical leadership. PMU operate jointly with the US-backed coalition to fight Islamic State in Iraq. The Iraqi Defence Ministry declined to comment the incident, while Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, speaking at a press conference Tuesday, said he had spoke with the militia’s leadership and that reports of the incident were still being confirmed.