Kata'ib Hezbollah commander says the attack on US embassy heralds a "new phase of the conflict"

Kata'ib Hezbollah commander says the attack on US embassy heralds a "new phase of the conflict"

Shafaq News/ A commander of the Kata'ib Hezbollah, an Iran-aligned Iraqi Shiite paramilitary group, on Saturday vowed to continue attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria, warning that any "stupidity" from the American enemy would be met with a "multiplied" response.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, the militia's security chief, Abu Ali al-Askari, said that the group's attacks on Friday were "just the beginning of a new phase of the conflict."

"Our jihadi operations against the American occupation will continue until the last American soldier is expelled from Iraqi soil," al-Askari said. "If the Iraqi government wants to negotiate with them to withdraw their forces from the country, we do not object to that, but we are sure that it is another lie from the American lies that will not fool us."

"We reiterate our confirmation that any stupidity from the American enemy will be met with a multiplied response and an expansion of operations," he added.

Al-Askari also said that the US embassy in Baghdad is still a "forward base for managing military and security operations" and a "nest of espionage."

"Some people see pride in bowing to it and marketing it as diplomatic missions that must be protected," he said, warning that "their positions will disappear with the end of the occupation."

He said that the group's attacks on Friday were "just the beginning of a new phase of conflict, and the coming days will determine the level of the response."

Al-Askari said that the cooperation of some members of the Iraqi security forces with the US occupier "for flimsy reasons" would make them "tails" and "partners in crime."

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned the attacks on his country's embassy in Baghdad and singled out Iran-aligned armed groups "Kata'ib Hezbollah" and "Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba" for the recent targeting of U.S. personnel.

"The United States reserves the right to respond decisively against those groups," Austin told Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani al-Sudani over the phone, according to a Pentagon statement summarizing the call.

He welcomed Prime Minister al-Sudani's statement this morning that condemned the attack as "acts of terrorism" that "endanger Iraq's internal security."

They also discussed the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue in August 2023. The statement emphasized that it is a "consultative mechanism" for the transition of the coalition forces. "However, the Secretary made clear that attacks against U.S. forces must stop."

Early on Friday, nearly seven mortar rounds landed in the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad. The attack marked the first time it had been fired on in more than a year, apparently widening the range of targets.

No group claimed responsibility, but previous attacks against U.S. forces have been carried out by Iran-aligned groups operating under the banner of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria were also targeted with rockets and drones at least five more times on Friday; three times at separate bases in Syria, and twice at the Ain al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad, a different U.S. defense official said.

The attacks were the most recorded against U.S. forces in the region in a single day since mid-October, when Iran-aligned militias started targeting U.S. assets in Iraq and Syria over Washington's backing of Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Explosions were heard near the embassy, in the center of Baghdad, at about 4 a.m. on Friday. Sirens calling on people to take cover were activated. State media said the attack damaged the headquarters of an Iraqi security agency.

U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have been attacked at least 84 times since Oct. 17. The U.S. has responded with a series of strikes that have killed at least 15 militants in Iraq and up to seven in Syria.

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