The United States launched air raids in Iraq late on Thursday, US officials said, directing them at four locations of the Iranian-backed Shia militia members believed to be responsible for an earlier rocket attack that killed and wounded American and British troops at a base north of Baghdad.
Among those singled out in the attack was an Iraqi airport under construction in the holy city of Karbala, an Iraqi airport official confirmed.
In a statement, Pentagon said the US conducted “defensive precision strikes” against Kataib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq.
“These weapons-storage facilities include facilities that housed weapons used to target US and coalition troops,” it said.
The strikes were “defensive, proportional and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups,” the statement added.
Kataib Hezbollah was one of the Iraqi militia groups that helped defeat theISIL (ISIS) group.
Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn, reporting from Baghdad, said aside from Kataib Hezbollah, other militia groups under the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) were also hit in south of Iraq’s capital as well as in Babylon and Karbala.
So far, there have been injuries reported following the attacks, but no confirmation on fatalities, she said.
Condemnation in Iraq
In a statement, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US will not tolerate attack against “our people, our interests, our allies.”
One US official told The Associated Press news agency (AP) news agency earlier that the raids were a joint operation with the British. The officials spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
AFP news agency reported similar lines, quoting an unnamed military source, who said “the operation is under way”.
A defence official also told Reuters news agency that the attacks were carried out by manned US aircraft.
Earlier on Thursday, US President Donald Trump gave the Pentagon the authority to respond after a rocket barrage killed two US troops and a British soldier, again raising tensions with Iran after the two countries came to the brink of war earlier this year.
An official told Reuters news agency that the US response would be proportional to that of Wednesday’s rocket attack, which also injured at least 14 people.
Al Jazeera’s Foltyn said it remains to be seen how the militia groups will respond, but added that the latest attacks are likely to once again ignite calls in Iraq for the expulsion of US troops.
She noted that the Popular Mobilisation Forces commanders have already come out to condemn the latest raids “as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”
Credit: Aljazeera and News Agencies