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Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah will enter Syria and battle ISIS in Al Bukamal – spokesperson

Iran-backed unit is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department

The Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary unit Kataib Hezbollah will enter Syria to fight Islamic State in the border town of Al Bukamal, the militia’s spokesperson was quoted as saying on Friday.

Jaafar Hussaini, spokesperson for the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization units) brigade, said the militias would battle ISIS in Al Bukamal because it borders Iraq, Lebanese television channel Al-Mayadin reported.

On Friday, Iraqi forces – including Hashd al-Shaabi units – captured from ISIS the Iraqi town Al Qaim, which is just across the border from Al Bukamal.

“Al Bukamal is in missile range of the Iraqi forces in al-Qaim,” Hussaini said. “The presence of our forces on the border with Al Bukamal Kamal means there will be a new front in the confrontation with Daesh.”

The last ISIS urban stronghold in Syria, Al Bukamal is an a objective for both the regime and the U.S.-led Coalition in their ongoing campaigns against Islamic State.

Syrian government forces and allies including Russia are pushing towards Al Bukamal on two fronts on the west side of the Euphrates river following the capture of Deir Ezzor city from ISIS on Friday and of the geographically and economically strategic T2 oil pumping station on October 26.

Meanwhile, the Coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are battling ISIS to the east of the Euphrates, and have themselves made rapid advances after the capture of Raqqa from ISIS, capturing many of Syria’s largest oil and gas fields in the push toward the border.

Some reports on Saturday said that Iraqi forces had entered Syria.

Kataib Hezbollah

Kata’ib Hezbollah – the Brigades of the Party of God – is an Iran-backed Iraqi Shia paramilitary group which is the 45th Brigade of the Hashd al-Shaabi.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an adviser to Iran’s Quds Force, former Badr Organization member and former member of the Iraqi parliament, is a senior leader.

Kataib Hezbollah was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State in June 2009. According to the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, the 400-strong group “has ideological ties to and receives support from Iran” and conducted attacks against Iraqi, U.S. and Coalition targets in Iraq prior to 2011.

The report says that in 2015, the group fought for the Assad regime in Syria, and in Iraq against ISIS. In 2016, it joined the Iraqi Army in the battle of Mosul, advancing west of Mosul to clear the Syria/Iraq border.

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