The strikes were "defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces," the US Department of Defense said

By Ian Horswill


Posted on March 13, 2020

The US has launched retaliatory airstrikes in Iraq, targeting five locations of the Iranian-backed Shia militia members believed to be responsible for a rocket attack that killed and wounded US and UK troops at a base north of Baghdad less than 24 hours earlier.

“The United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kat’aib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq,” a US Department of Defense statement said.

“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.

Kata’ib Hezbollah was one of the Iraqi militia groups that helped defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), al-Jazeera reported.

In a statement, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US will not tolerate attacks against “our people, our interests, our allies”.

“As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region,” Esper said.

Mark Esper, Iran, Iraq

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The strikes were “defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces,” the US Department of Defense added.

Less than 24 hours earlier US President Donald Trump gave the Pentagon the authority to respond after a rocket barrage killed two US troops and a British soldier, wounding 14 others, at Camp Taji again raising tensions with Iran after the two countries came to the brink of war earlier this year.

Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful general Qassem Suleimani in the early hours of 3 January this year after Iran killed a US contractor in an attack last December.

Suleimani was hit by the drone strike while local allies from the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) drove him from Baghdad airport. The de facto leader of the PMF, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close friend of Suleimani, was also killed in the attack.

“General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” a Pentagon statement said. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Iran vowed revenge for the killing of Suleimani and attacked Coalition air bases in Iraq directly afterwards.