US strikes Kata’ib Hizbollah in Iraq and Syria
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US on Sunday launched five strikes against facilities belonging to the Iraqi militia, Kata’ib Hizbollah, as it charged that the Iranian-backed militia was behind Friday’s lethal attack on K-1, an Iraqi military base outside Kirkuk.
“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, US forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria,” Jonathan Hoffman, Chief Pentagon Spokesperson, said in a statement issued shortly after noon local time on Sunday.
Hoffman unambiguously affirmed that the Iranian-backed militia had been behind the attack.
“Recent KH strikes included a 30-plus rocket attack” on K-1, resulting “in the death of a US citizen,” who worked as a contractor on the base, “and injured four US service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).”
“The five targets include three KH locations in Iraq and two in Syria,” Hoffman explained. The locations “included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that KH uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces.”
Iraqi sources reported that four militia members were killed in the attack, with another 30 wounded. Nothing was said about KH casualties in Syria.
Hoffman provided a brief description of Tehran’s support for the militia.
“KH has a strong linkage with Iran’s Quds Force,” he stated, and it “has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack OIR coalition forces.”
Some three weeks ago, as US intelligence judged the tempo of attacks to be increasing on Iraqi bases that host Coalition forces, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran “that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive US response.”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper repeated Pompeo’s warning a few days later.
Kata’ib Hizbollah is headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who is also the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF were first formed in 2014 to defend Iraq against the so-called Islamic State.
Muhandis is a long-time ally of Tehran. Born in Basra in 1954, he was working with Iran already in the 1980s. He was involved in the 1983 bombings of the US and French embassies in Kuwait, for which he was convicted in absentia.
During the US-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein (formally known as Operation Iraqi Freedom-OIF), Kata’ib Hizbollah was prominently involved in attacking US and other Coalition forces, and the US designated it a terrorist organization then.
“The US has long been seeking to degrade Kata’ib Hizbollah’s capabilities, because it is one of the most important groups within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Hizbollah Network,” Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24.
“Kata’ib Hizbollah is a trans-national organization that has been deployed by Iran widely in Syria and Iraq,” Heras continued. The US is “making a statement to Qassem Soleimani and the IRGC that the US can escalate well beyond the ability of groups like Kata’ib Hizbollah to survive an American onslaught.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany