A US airstrike killed five Iraqi militants near Kirkuk as they prepared to launch explosive projectiles at US forces, identified as members of an Iran-backed militia. A US military official confirmed a “self-defense strike on an imminent threat” targeting a drone staging site near Kirkuk. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group representing several Iraqi armed factions with close ties to Tehran, said five of its members had been killed and vowed retaliation against US forces. Iraqi armed groups have claimed more than 70 attacks against US forces since October 17 in response to Washington’s backing of Israel in its bombardment of Gaza. The US in November launched two series of strikes in Iraq against what it said were Iran-aligned armed groups who had engaged in attacks against their forces. Iraq’s government condemned those strikes as escalatory and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.