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An Iraqi militia said it has suspended its operations against US troops in the region, days after three US soldiers were killed in a drone attack on a base in Jordan that Washington blamed on “radical Iran-backed militant groups”.
“We announce the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government,” said the secretary-general of Kataeb Hizbollah, Abu Hussein al-Hamidawi.
“We will continue to defend our people in Gaza in other ways,” he said in the statement on Tuesday, adding that the group’s fighters would be engaged in “passive defence” should there be any “hostile American action” towards them.
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he had decided to respond to Sunday’s deadly drone attack.
But he added: “I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for.”
US officials said they were still assessing who was responsible for Sunday’s attack, but said they saw links with Kataeb Hizbollah.
“It has the footprints of Kataeb Hizbollah, but not making a final assessment on that — our teams here are continuing to do the analysis,” said Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh.
Founded in the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Kataeb Hizbollah is one of the most powerful Shia militias in Iraq, with deep ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Experts say it is one of the leading members within the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a shadowy umbrella group that emerged in mid-October and has since taken credit for more than 140 attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria.
The IRI is one of several groups that collectively make up what Tehran calls the Axis of Resistance. The groups have targeted Israeli and American military installations across the Middle East since Hamas militants’ deadly assault on Israel on October 7, which sparked the current war.
As well as the IRI’s attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria, Lebanon’s Hizbollah militant group has also clashed with Israel on their shared border almost every day since October 8, while Houthi rebels in Yemen have attacked merchant ships in the Red Sea.