The United States launched airstrikes against an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq early Friday, responding to a rocket attack on a military base that killed one British and two U.S. service members in a new round of escalating tensions.
The Pentagon said in a statement that U.S. forces hit facilities “across Iraq” linked to Kataib Hezbollah, including storage facilities that housed weapons used in attacks on American and coalition troops.
“The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said in the statement. “As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.”
The aerial bombardment took place around 1:30 a.m., according to the Iraqi military. It was unclear whether any militia members were killed.
In response to a request for a White House statement, a senior administration official said that President Trump had directed U.S. forces to conduct strikes on five Kataib Hezbollah weapons storage facilities “to significantly degrade the group’s ability to carry out future attacks.”
“The President has been clear that we will not stand for the Iranian regime attacking Americans in Iraq or elsewhere, whether directly or through proxies,” the official said in an email.
Another Iran-backed militia, Harakat al-Nujaba, accused the United States of hitting militia and Iraqi army headquarters, as well as a civilian airport. In a statement early Friday, it said that further strikes could prompt retaliation involving an “eye for an eye.”
The group did not elaborate on what that might be, and it was not immediately possible to confirm the U.S. statements that the strikes had only targeted militia facilities, or the militia claim that a civilian-related location had been struck.
U.S. defense officials said Iranian-backed militia groups carried out the attack Wednesday on Camp Taji, an Iraqi base north of Baghdad that Iraqi and coalition forces share.
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday morning that defense officials had “pretty good confidence” who launched the rockets, citing the capture of a truck by Iraqi security forces on the northern outskirts of Baghdad they said was used in the attack. Iraqi officials released photos of the truck, a flatbed with launchers rigged to it in makeshift fashion.
“You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it,” Esper told reporters.
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Source: Washington Post