The U.S. military has carried out "defensive strikes" in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, the Pentagon said on Sunday, two days after a U.S. civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.
The Pentagon said it targeted three locations of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militia group in Iraq and two in Syria. The locations included weapons storage facilities and command and control locations the group had used to plan and execute attacks on coalition forces, it said.
The United States had accused the group of the 30-plus rocket attack on Friday that killed the U.S. civilian contractor and injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
"In response to repeated Kata'ib Hizbollah attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes ... that will degrade KH's ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces" chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
In Iraq, four militia fighters were killed and 30 were wounded following three air strikes in the country on Sunday, an Iraqi military statement said. The dead included several Iraqi militia fighters killed in an air strike on their headquarters near the western Qaim district on the border with Syria, military sources and militia commanders told Reuters.
US forces carried out attacks on facilities belonging to an Iranian-backed militant Shi’ite group in Iraq on Sunday, in retaliation for a Friday strike on an American base that left a military contractor dead and four servicemen wounded, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The US strikes reportedly killed at least 12 Kataeb Hezbollah fighters.
“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve coalition forces, US forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
Hoffman said that among the five sites targeted by US forces were weapon storage facilities and command and control locations, two of which were in Syria, and blamed Kataeb Hezbollah for Friday’s rocket attack.
He added that the group “has a strong linkage with Iran’s Quds Force and has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack OIR coalition forces.”
Sky News Arabic reported that one of the targets of the drone strikes was Kataeb Hezbollah’s main base near Al-Qaim, in the western Iraqi Anbar Province.
Attacks such as Friday’s on US bases in Iraq have taken place on several occasions over the past few months, with American officials for the most part blaming Iran-backed fighters.
Iraq’s Kataeb Hezbollah, or the Hezbollah Brigades, a separate force from the Lebanese group Hezbollah, operates under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Many of them are supported by Iran.
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