The U.S. says it has carried out military strikes in Iraq and Syria targeting a militia blamed for an attack that killed an American contractor.
U.S. forces conducted “precision defensive strikes” against five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Defense Department official Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
The U.S. blames the militia for a rocket barrage Friday that killed a U.S. defense contractor at a military compound near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. Officials said attackers fired as many as 30 rockets in Friday's assault.
Hoffman said the strikes carried out by the United States will limit the group's ability to carry out future attacks on Americans and their Iraqi government allies.
"In response to repeated Kata'ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade KH's ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces," Statement From Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Jonathan Hoffman stated.
As per the statement of the Secretary of Defense, Kata'ib Hizbollah has strong links with Iran's Quds Force and has been receiving aid from Iran for conducting attacks on OIR coalition forces. The OIR coalition which is in Iraq is made to slowly and steadily wipe out ISIS along with providing advice and assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). "The U.S. and its coalition partners fully respect Iraqi sovereignty and support a strong and independent Iraq. The U.S., however, will not be deterred from exercising its right of self-defense," read the statement.
The KH has also been constantly at war with the Iraqi Security Forces injuring multiple members of the ISF. Recent KH had conducted a rocket attack on an Iraqi base near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk which had resulted in the death of a U.S. citizen and injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
"Secretary Esper and Prime Minister Mahdi have shared with each other their commitment to see these KH attacks on ISF and OIR forces cease once and for all. Iran and their KH proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq's sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces," read the statement.
The Defense Department gave no details immediately on how the strikes were conducted. They hit three of the militia's sites in Iraq and two in Syria, including weapon storage facilities and the militia's command and control bases, Hoffman said.