United States begins bombing in Iraq against Iran-backed groups

(CNN) — The United States carried out airstrikes in Iraq on Tuesday against facilities used by Iran-backed groups in the country, following a series of attacks on American forces, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

The attacks targeted three facilities used by Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah and other groups affiliated with Tehran in Iraq.

Austin said in the statement that the attacks were “a direct response to a series of escalating attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria” by Iran-backed militia groups.

US Central Command also issued a statement on Tuesday in which it noted that US forces “conducted unilateral airstrikes” against “KH headquarters, storage and training sites for rocket, missile and unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities.”

“I am grateful for both the skill and professionalism with which our personnel planned and executed these attacks and for the continued efforts of our troops on the ground as they work with regional partners to combat ISIS,” Austin said in the statement Tuesday. Are working to eliminate and weaken.” ,

“The President and I will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to protect their interests and ours. We do not want to escalate the conflict in the region. We are fully prepared to take further steps to protect our people and our facilities. “We call on these groups and their Iranian sponsors to immediately stop these attacks,” Austin said.

The attacks come just days after US personnel were injured in a ballistic missile and rocket attack on al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. While most of the missiles and rockets were intercepted by the base’s air defenses, some projectiles managed to hit, Said US Central Command over the weekend.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday that a total of four US soldiers were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries as a result of the attack and that they had all returned to duty.

Tuesday’s bombing is the first in Iraq since earlier this month, when the United States struck a member of an Iran-backed group operating in the country, whom a US official said was responsible for shedding “American blood”. . They come after several attacks in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthis over the past week and a half, reflecting growing concern about Iranian-backed groups in the Middle East amid rising tensions in the region.

According to a US official, US forces in Iraq and Syria have been attacked at least 151 times since the attacks began on October 17, 10 days after Hamas crossed into Israel on October 7. And while officials have not directly linked the two situations, the current attacks on U.S. forces have raised tensions and concerns about the spread of a broader conflict in the region, especially when paired with regular attacks on commercial shipping by the Houthis. .

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