The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
On March 4, Saraya Awliyat Al-Dam ("Guardians of the Blood"), which appears to be a front for Iraqi Shi'ite militias loyal to Iran, issued a statement saying that it will halt attacks on U.S. forces and their logistics convoys during the visit by Pope Francis to Iraq on March 6.
The group, which claimed responsibility for the February 15, 2021 rocket attack on a base in Erbil where U.S. troops are stationed, said in its statement that it will cease its "military activities" during the Pope’s visit in order to show respect for Iraq’s top ayatollah, Ali Al-Sistani, who is planning to receive the Pope in his Najaf residence. The statement further noted that "unlike Americans who killed Qassem Soleimani, the group's fighters are accustomed to paying respect to the country’s guests and therefore will be ceasing all kinds of attacks."
The statement also criticized the Pope for not visiting Iraq earlier to offer his condolences to the Christian and Yazidi communities who were harmed during the 2014 takeover of Nineveh province in northern Iraq by the Islamic State (ISIS).
"We welcome the Pope of the Vatican to the sacred lands of prophets, Imams, honorable [men], the land of resisting mujahideen. We tell you, humble man: If your visit had taken place when the Yazidi and Christian women were captured and when one-third of Iraq’s land was seized by Daesh, it would have been more significant for those who were in pain."
The statement went on to say that "Saraya Awliyat Al-Dam will halt its military activity in all forms during the Pope's visit as a sign of respect for Imam Al-Sistani. We are Arab, and we honor guests and do not betray them as the Americans did with Iraq's guest and soldier Haj Qassem Soleimani and his companions."
The statement concluded by extending congratulation to the mujahideen who carried out the rocket attack on Ain Al-Assad base in Anbar, which houses U.S. forces.
"We congratulate the mujahideen on the blessed operation that targeted Ain Al-Assad and its accuracy in hurting the occupier," it said.
 Telegram, Sabreen News, March 4, 2021.