Iraq’s Kataeb Hezbollah says attacks aim to ‘drain’ US, sanctions ‘ridiculous’

Iraq’s Kataeb Hezbollah (KH) militia, a powerful armed faction with close ties to Iran, brushed off US sanctions on the group over attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria and said on Saturday such strikes aimed to “drain the enemy”.

The US on Friday issued sanctions against several KH members and against another Iran-backed Shia militia and its secretary general, accusing them of being involved in attacks against the United States and its partners in Iraq and Syria.

The United States has blamed Iran and militia groups it supports for the more than 60 attacks since mid-October as regional tensions soar over the Israel-Hamas war, which began on Oct. 7. At least 59 US military personnel have been wounded in the attacks, though all have returned to duty so far.

A statement on Telegram by Abu Ali Al-Askari, a security official in the group, on Saturday dismissed the sanctions as “ridiculous,” and said the measures would not affect the group’s operations.

“Well-studied strikes by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq against enemies, causing losses in their ranks and destroying vehicles or confusing or distracting them, is going according to a strategy to drain the enemy,” the statement said.

Among those linked to Kataeb Hezbollah targeted on Friday are a member of the group’s lead decision-making body, its foreign affairs chief, and a military commander the Treasury said has worked with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to train fighters.

The US State Department also designated militia group Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada and its secretary general, Abu Ala Al-Walai, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

In a statement posted on Telegram late on Friday, Walai described the sanctions as “a medal of honour.”

The sanctions freeze any US assets of those targeted and generally bar Americans from dealing with them. Those who engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit with sanctions.

The United States has 900 troops in Syria, and 2,500 more in neighboring Iraq, on a mission it says aims to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State, which in 2014 seized large swaths of both countries but was later defeated.

Militia groups in Iraq have linked the recent attacks on US bases to Washington’s support for Israel in its war on Gaza, and say the US should cease backing Israel’s assault if it wants the attacks to stop.

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