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Friday, May 24, 2024

US launches new round of airstrikes in Iraq

Washington has targeted Iranian-backed militias in response to attacks that injured American troops

The US military has announced that it has carried out “proportionate” airstrikes against Iranian-backed militants in Iraq in response to recent attacks on American bases in the region.

The latest airstrikes targeting Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated militia groups in Iraq were launched just after midnight local time on Wednesday, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. The strikes were aimed at Kataib Hezbollah’s headquarters in Iraq, as well as storage and training facilities, and were intended to degrade the group’s ability to mount drone and missile attacks.

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“Today, at President Biden’s direction, US military forces conducted necessary and proportionate strikes on three facilities used by the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group and other Iran-affiliated groups in Iraq,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“These precision strikes are in direct response to a series of escalatory attacks against US and coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias.”

Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Yemen have launched dozens of attacks against US forces in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. The latest of those strikes, which the Pentagon called the largest since the conflict began, came when rockets and missiles were fired at a US air base in western Iraq on Saturday, injuring several American troops. One Iraqi soldier stationed at the base was badly injured, according to the Pentagon.

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Austin said he and Biden will not hesitate to “take necessary action” to defend US forces and their allies in the region. “We do not seek to escalate conflict in the region. We are fully prepared to take further measures to protect our people and our facilities. We call on these groups and their Iranian sponsors to immediately cease these attacks.”

Iraq’s government condemned the previous round of US airstrikes against Kataib Hezbollah last month, calling them “an unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” The US airstrikes in December killed one member of Baghdad’s security forces and injured 18 people, including civilians, according to the Iraqi prime minister’s office.