A series of retaliatory U.S. airstrikes against the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah killed “a number” of militants on Monday night, shortly after the Iraqi group was blamed for a drone attack on U.S. personnel, the National Security Council has confirmed, the latest in a series of clashes between the United States and the organization.
President Joe Biden ordered strikes against three locations connected to Kataib Hezbollah, after militants linked to the group reportedly took credit for a Christmas Day attack on U.S. military personnel that injured three service members, one of whom was left in critical condition, NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
U.S. Central Command said the American strikes “likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants” and that there “are no indications that any civilian lives were affected” — Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani however, said in a statement one “serviceman” was killed and 18 others, “including civilians,” were injured, multiple outlets reported.
An unnamed senior member of Kataib Hezbollah told the Washington Post the attacks on U.S. personnel were motivated by American support for Israel in its war against Hamas, as well as the U.S. military’s continued presence in Iraq.
The group, blamed for the deaths of dozens of civilians and American soldiers over the course of its existence, has been identified as a terrorist organization by the United States since 2009.
Kataib Hezbollah came to prominence with a series of attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq that started in 2007—the United States bombed the headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah in 2019 and the group’s founder, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed in an American drone strike in 2020, leading Ahmad al-Hamidawi to take over the group.
Kataib Hezbollah uses largely Iranian-supplied weapons with the goals of combating ISIS, establishing an Iran-aligned government in Iraq, expelling U.S. forces from the country and advancing Iranian interests throughout the region, according to the National Counterterrorism Center.
The attack on U.S. troops follows months of increasing threats against American forces in the region since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, sparking an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip—Iranian-backed militant groups are believed to have carried out dozens of attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since the start of the Gaza war.
Kataib Hezbollah was formed by bringing together five militant organizations under Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a former political dissident considered to be one of Iraq’s most powerful men at the time of his death. The Shiite group has been operating for almost 10 years as part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (of which Muhandis was deputy chief), a group of Shia militant fighters that have been recognized as a government entity operating alongside the Iraqi military since 2016. Tensions between the majority Shiites in Iraq and Sunni minority have existed for decades but escalated into civil war with the toppling of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces in 2003. Attacks from Kataib Hezbollah reportedly include the 2008 launch of an improvised rocket-assisted munition that killed 18 civilians and wounded dozens of others in 2008 and a 2021 rocket attack in Iraq that killed a civilian American contractor and wounded several troops. The latter led Biden to lead his first military act as president, killing 22 people with airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed fighters in Syria.
The Iraq War officially ended in 2011 with the withdrawal of most U.S. troops, but thousands of troops have remained in the country since then. A few thousand American troops remain stationed in Iraq with the goals of combating ISIS and limiting Iranian influence in the region, according to the Cato Institute. About 900 U.S. forces are also in Syria as part of a counter-ISIS mission and an effort to assist Kurdish groups, where they face occasional attacks.
Kataib Hezbollah is not the same organization as the better-known Hezbollah group, a Lebanese Shia political party and militant group founded in the 1980s that has engaged in violence at the Lebanon/Israel border since the start of war in Gaza. Hezbollah also receives support from Iran.
10,000. That’s how many members Kataib Hizballah is thought to have had as of September 2022, according to the National Counterterrorism Center.
Source » forbes