US Slaps Iran-Linked Group Involved In Killing Three US Service Members With Terror Label

(-/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP PHOTO/FARS NEWS/STR

John Oyewale Contributor
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An Iran-linked group involved in the drone killing of three American service members were officially designated a terrorist organization Monday, U.S. authorities announced.

“The Department of State today designated Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiya (HAAA) and HAAA Secretary General Haydar Muzhir Ma’lak al-Sa’idi as Specially Designated Global Terrorists,” a statement from the U.S. Department of State (DOS) reads.

The “Iraq-based Iran-aligned” HAAA, the U.S.-designated terrorist organizations Kata’ib Hizballah, Harakat al-Nujaba and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada and multiple other similar groups, collectively form the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI), according to the DOS.

HAAA was involved in a January drone attack that killed three U.S. troops at Tower 22 in Jordan, the DOS said. The IRI has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack and dozens more against U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) initially announced that 25 troops were injured in the Jan. 28 attack but updated the count to at least 34 the following day. Iran reportedly denied responsibility, with foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani saying the militias do not take orders from the Iranian government but rather oppose “any aggression and occupation” of their own volition. (RELATED: Here’s How An Iranian-Backed Militia’s Drone Got Past US Defenses And Killed Three US Service Members)

The fatal attack marked an escalation in the conflict between the U.S. and the IRI, especially in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023 terror attack on Israel.

President Joe Biden condemned the attack as “despicable and wholly unjust.” Praising the slain service members as “patriots in the highest sense”, Biden added in part: “We will carry on their commitment to fight terrorism. And have no doubt — we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner [of] our choosing.”

The Pentagon identified the three service members, who were all from Georgia: Sgt. William Rivers, 46, of Carrollton; Spc. Kennedy Sanders, 24, of Waycross; and Spc. Breonna Moffett, 23, of Savannah.

The U.S. struck back Feb. 2, hitting over 85 targets across Iraq and Syria and killing at least one terrorist commander, thus reportedly triggering Iranian pressure on the IRI to stop its attacks.

“HAAA has publicly threatened to continue attacking U.S. interests in the region,” the DOS said. “HAAA has also terrorized the Iraqi people.”

The U.S. pledged to continue countering Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and to “degrade and disrupt” the Iran-backed terrorist organizations, according to the DOS.