The United States on Thursday evening lunched a series of airstrikes in Iraq, against an Iranian-backed militia group suspected of firing an earlier rocket assault that killed and injured American and British soldiers.
“The United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hizbollah facilities across Iraq,” the Pentagon said in an statement.
Officials all but blamed the Shia group for a Wednesday strike at Camp Taji close to Baghdad where coalition troops are housed. Two U.S. and one U.K. service member were killed in the rocket blast, and 14 others were injured.
“You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
The Pentagon didn’t release any information on the numbers of casualties.
Each of the identified targets in Thursday’s retaliatory bombing is believed to “include facilities that housed weapons used to target U.S. and coalition troops.”
The strikes were “defensive, proportional and in direct reaction to the treat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups,” the statement included.
The most recent round of shellings raise concerns of renewed tensions between the two countries, which became increasingly strained after the Trump administration pulled back from a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran and reinstituted debilitating sanctions.
Relations worsen during a volley of brutality that started in late December, when Kataib Hezbolla besieged a U.S. Military base close to Kirkuk with rockets. A few days later, American forces struck back at the Shia militia group in Iraq and Syria.
But the two nations came to what could have been the verge of war after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis close to Baghdad’s air terminal in January. The Department of Defense justified the assault by saying the general was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and all through the region.”
The killing therefore triggered a ballistic missile attack by Iran on the Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq and a second base at Irbil, which houses U.S. Personnel.
The strike on al-Assad injured at least 34 U.S. service members.