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US airstrikes hit Kataib Hezbollah sites in Iraq after attack on US troops

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The Pentagon seen from the sky on March 3, 2022.



CNN

The US military carried out airstrikes Monday evening on three facilities used by Iraq-based Kataib Hezbollah and “affiliated groups” after an attack wounded three US soldiers, leaving one in critical condition, the US military said. White House.

A statement from US Central Command said initial assessments indicated that US airstrikes, ordered by President Joe Biden, “likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants”.

The Iran-backed militant group previously claimed responsibility for using a one-way attack drone to target U.S. forces at Erbil Air Base on Monday morning, the White House said.

A statement from U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said U.S. airstrikes on “three sites used by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups focused specifically on aerial drone activities without a pilot.

The strikes against Kataib Hezbollah facilities took place at 8:45 p.m. ET, according to CENTCOM. “There is no indication that civilian lives have been affected,” the statement said.

The Iraqi government, however, said in a statement that a security “military” had been killed and 18 others, “including civilians,” had been injured. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office called the airstrikes “hostile acts” that “undermine Iraq’s sovereignty and are deemed unacceptable regardless of the circumstances and justification.”

The Iraqi government has stressed that such attacks could damage relations between the two countries. “This is a clearly hostile and unconstructive act that does not serve common long-term interests,” the statement said.

Kataib Hezbollah is a Shiite militant group that “poses a high threat” to U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, according to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) website.

He says the group wants to expel U.S. and coalition forces from Iraq and establish an Iran-aligned government there. The group also operates in Syria, specifies the DNI.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin briefed the president Monday afternoon, the White House said. Several options were presented to the president and Biden ordered the strikes during that call.

In a statement, Austin said Monday’s airstrikes were carried out in response to the Irbil attack and other attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

Austin called the U.S. airstrikes “necessary and proportionate.”

The security “soldier” mentioned in the Iraqi prime minister’s statement was a member of Hashd Al-Shaabi, known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a predominantly Shiite paramilitary force, according to a statement released by the group . In 2016, the Iraqi parliament passed a bill recognizing the Shiite militia as a government entity operating alongside the Iraqi army.

The United States, however, considers the PMUs to be militias supported by Iran and considers that some of them are responsible for attacks against American sites in Iraq and Syria.

This headline and story have been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Aqeel Najim contributed to this report.

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