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Iraq militia leader says if U.S. troops stay they will be occupiers

FILE PHOTO: Qais al-Khazali, leader of the militant group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a commander in the Popular Mobilization Forces attend a funeral procession of Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces) members, who were killed by U.S. air strikes in Qaim district, at the Green zone in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iran-backed Iraqi militia commander Qais al-Khazali said on Sunday if U.S. troops do not leave Iraq, they would be considered an occupying force.

Khazali was speaking after Iraq’s parliament backed a recommendation by the prime minister to end the presence of foreign troops, a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad.

The U.S. sanctioned Khazali’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq group on Friday, saying it was an Iranian proxy.

Reporting by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein