BAGHDAD, Feb 2 (Reuters) – The Iran-backed Iraqi armed group Nujaba said on Friday it will continue launching attacks on U.S. forces in the region until the Gaza war ends and U.S. forces exit Iraq, days after another major Iran-backed group said it was suspending such attacks.
Iraq’s shadowy Kataib Hezbollah said on Tuesday it would pause attacks on U.S. forces, a decision that followed the killing of three U.S. soldiers in a drone attack in Jordan near the Syrian border that Washington blamed on Iran-back militants.
Washington has vowed to retaliate.
Nujaba’s leader, Akram al-Kaabi, said in a statement he understood Kataib Hezbollah’s decision, but Nujaba and other factions in the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI) – an umbrella group of hardline Shi’ite militias – would continue operations.
Part of Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance,” the umbrella group has claimed more than 150 attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since the Gaza war began.
Iran denies direct involvement.
Iraqi officials fear Washington’s response to the killing of its soldiers could be severe, and along with Tehran pushed Kataib Hezbollah to stand down, sources told Reuters, hoping it could help de-escalate tensions.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Friday that his country would not start a war but that it would “respond strongly” to anyone who tried to bully it.
In 2020, the U.S. killed Iran Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike at Baghdad airport.
The strike came days after the U.S. blamed Kataib Hezbollah for the killing of a U.S. contractor.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari in Baghdad and Jana Choukeir in Dubai; Editing by Michael Georgy and Nick Macfie)