The US on Thursday launched an airstrike in Syria targeting facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups – the first military action taken by the Biden administration, officials said.
The Pentagon said the strike was in retaliation for a February 15 rocket attack against a US military base at Erbil International Airport in northern Iraq, killing a US-led coalition contractor and injuring others, including an American service member.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters after the airstrike, “I believe the target we went through, we know what we kill.”
“We believe the target was being used by the Shia militants who operated it [Feb. 15] Attacks, ”he said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the attack “destroyed several facilities at the border control point used by several groups of Iranian-backed squads.”
According to Kirby, the groups included Qatib Hizbollah and Qatib Sayyid al-Shuhada.
Kirby called the retaliation a “proportional military response”.
Earlier this week, the Qatib Hezbollah group denied any role in the recent rocket attacks against US bases in Iraq.
Two days after the February 15 strike, another rocket attack injured at least one contractor in a base hosting the US Army north of Baghdad.
On Monday, the Rockets attacked Baghdad’s Green Zone, including the US Embassy and other diplomatic missions.
Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being linked by terrorists to Qatib Hezbollah, a way for Iranian allies to harass US forces without holding them accountable.
Since 2019, the US has targeted the Qatib Hezbollah group with high-profile attacks in Iraq and Syria, in response to occasional lethal rocket attacks against US-led forces.
Tensions rose under the Trump administration, leading to the assassination of Iran’s military leader Qasim Soleimani in January 2020.
Iran avenged a ballistic missile attack against the US military in Iraq last year.
With post wires