American forces launched strikes Monday against Iran-backed militias in Iraq after a drone attack injured three U.S. service members.
The U.S. strikes were directed at three locations used by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
“These precision strikes are a response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias, including an attack by Iran-affiliated Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups on Erbil Air Base earlier today, and intended to disrupt and degrade capabilities of the Iran-aligned militia groups directly responsible,” Austin said.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said that one of the U.S. service members was critically hurt, and that Kataib Hezbollah, as part of an umbrella group of Iran-backed militants, claimed credit for the attack.
“Early assessments indicate that these U.S. airstrikes destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants,” U.S. Central Command wrote on Twitter. “There are no indications that any civilian lives were affected. The U.S. military will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these strikes.”
American and coalition forces have operated in the region as part of the mission to counter the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Those forces have come under repeated attacks by Iranian-backed proxies, with about 100 attacks coming since Israel launched its offensive to eliminate the terror group Hamas in Gaza.
The U.S. military has said it disrupted most of those attacks, or that they fell short of their targets and caused no damage. But several, like Monday’s, have injured U.S. military personnel.
Previous retaliatory strikes have targeted Kataib Hezbollah and other groups.
“While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities,” Austin said.