Shiite militias step up Iraq attacks on US troops


Qais al-Khazali, then the top aide of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and leader of a militant group called Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, inspects the damage after overnight fighting in Najaf, Iraq.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Shiite militias backed by Iran have ramped up attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, making June the deadliest month in two years for American forces. The militiamen’s goal is to prevent the U.S. military from extending its presence in the country past the end of this year.

Three separate militias have been involved in the attacks, particularly a small but deadly group known as the Hezbollah Brigades, believed to be funded and trained by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard and its special operations wing, the Quds Force.

The militia attacks — mainly in the Shiite heartland in southern Iraq — raise the prospect of increased violence against Americans if a residual U.S. force remains in the country past 2011, a possibility being considered by the Baghdad government to help maintain a still fragile security.

They also point to the persistent efforts by Shiite-majority Iran, the United States’ top regional rival, to influence Iraq after the Americans’ exit.

In the latest American deaths, a senior U.S. official in Baghdad said Thursday that three U.S. troops were killed a day earlier when a huge rocket known as an IRAM struck a remote desert base just a few miles (kilometers) from the Iranian border in Iraq’s southern Wasit province.

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