Iraqi militia leader vows retaliation for deaths in US strike

Iraqi militia leader vows retaliation for deaths in US strike
© Department of Defense

The commander of an Iraqi militia backed by Iran is pledging to retaliate against the U.S. after an airstrike along the Iraq-Syria border killed four of his fighters last month.

“We want an operation that befits those martyrs. … Even if it comes late, time is not important,” Abu Alaa al-Walae, the leader of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, told The Associated Press in reference to the four militia members killed in the U.S. airstrike.

“We want it to be an operation in which everyone says they have taken revenge on the Americans,” al-Walae said. “It will be a qualitative operation (that could come) from the air, the sea, along Iraq’s border, in the region or anywhere. It’s an open war."

ADVERTISEMENT

The Pentagon announced on June 27 that U.S. military forces earlier that day struck targeting areas that contained operational and weapons storage facilities that Iran-backed militia groups Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada used to engage in unpiloted aerial vehicle attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi-state sanctioned group of mainly Shiite militias that includes those targeted by the U.S. airstrikes, denied that there were weapons in the warehouses, the AP noted.

They reportedly contended that their forces were on assignments that aimed to stop the Islamic State from invading the area.

U.S. forces in eastern Syria were targeted by rocket fire the day after the strikes, the news service reported. No troops were killed. The U.S. has pointed to Iran-backed militias as the perpetrators behind the attacks, according to the AP.

The AP noted that drone strikes aimed at U.S. military bases in Iraq have become more common recently, particularly since a U.S. drone killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last year. 

Al-Walae added that the presidential victory of hard-line Iranian cleric Ebrahim Raisi will fortify Iran-backed militant groups that are scattered throughout the Middle East for the next four years, saying they “will have their best times.”

Raisi, in his first remarks following his victory, said he was not open to meeting with President BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE or negotiating Iran’s missile program and support of regional militias, according to the AP.