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The New Arab Staff

Iraqi militia denies involvement in attacks on US forces

Kataeb Hezbollah rarely comments on individual attacks [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 February, 2021

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Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iraq paramilitary group considered to be among those closest to Iran, denied their involvement in recent attack against US forces in Iraq.
An Iran-backed militia group in Iraq has distanced itself from recent attacks on US military facilities in the country, in a statement reported by Reuters

Kataeb Hezbollah denied their involvement in a flurry of deadly rocket attacks which targeted Erbil early last week and a non-lethal strike on Baghdad's Green Zone on Monday, home to the US embassy and other key diplomatic sites.

Some Western and Iraqi officials have said that the attacks, increasingly claimed by obscure militant groups, are orchestrated by the powerful group to covertly strike American interests.

This was quickly denied by the group.

"We absolutely did not target Erbil or the Green Zone and have no knowledge of the group that did," said Kataeb spokesman Mohammed Mohi.

The hardline Shia paramilitary group, which is vehemently opposed to Washington's presence in Iraq, rarely comments on specific attacks.

Breaking their silence on one the most high-profile attacks this year, the group's spokesman said the Erbil shelling - which killed a foreign contractor working with the US-led coalition - was aimed at pressuring Washington to take a firmer stance against Iran-backed militias in the country.

He spoke positively on de-escalating tensions between the US and Iran and its proxy network, in a détente which could precede the withdrawal of US troops.

Unlike the previous administration, Washington's new State Department is yet to attribute blame for the attack to a specific perpetrator and says it is committed to jointly investigating the matter with Kurdistan's regional government.

While regional tensions flared since the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, along with Kataeb commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Washington and Tehran are now looking for a way to return to the nuclear deal abandoned by former US President Donald Trump.

Read also: US top general urges Iran restraint amid efforts to restart talks

Despite this, Washington ally Riyadh has found itself targeted by aerial assaults twice in past weeks.

One of those attacks, which Saud Arabia said it thwarted, appeared to have come from Iraq, according to some Western and regional officials.

In response to a question on whether his group was involved Kataeb spokesman Mohi Mohammed said the people in the region "who have suffered from Saudi (policy) have the right to retaliate".

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