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US drone crashes in Iraq: official

An American drone crashed north of Baghdad, a US defense official said Friday, after Iran-backed militants claimed they fired on an unmanned aircraft flying over Iraq. “A US UAV crashed near Balad airbase, Iraq” on Thursday night local time, the official told AFP, without identifying the type of drone that was lost. “Iraqi security forces recovered the aircraft. There were no injuries reported,” the official said, adding that “an investigation of the cause of the crash is underway.” The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-linked armed groups that oppose US support for Israel, said Friday that it fired on a US MQ-9 — a type of drone that can be used for both surveillance and strikes — which was operating over Iraq the day before. “Mujahideen yesterday targeted… an MQ-9 drone belonging to the American occupation,” the group said in a statement. US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been hit by some 140 attacks since mid-October, according to the Pentagon — many of which have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq — and Washington has carried out retaliatory strikes in both countries. On January 4, a US strike in central Baghdad killed a pro-Iran commander who Washington said was involved in attacks on American troops — a move that infuriated the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, whose government is backed by Tehran-aligned parties, has called for the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group to depart the country. Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder said Tuesday that Washington will “continue to consult closely” with the Iraqis, but that he was “not aware of any official request by the government of Iraq” for US forces to leave. The United States has around 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria as part of the anti-IS coalition.

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