WASHINGTON — The United States launched attacks against Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on Friday, its first retaliatory strikes for the three American troops killed in a drone attack last weekend.
U.S. military forces struck 85 sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian forces and Iran-backed militants, which included command and control operations, intelligence centers, rockets and missiles, and drone storage sites.
“Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”
The Biden administration had made clear that the U.S. would take military action after the drone attack and his order cam hours after Biden attended the dignified return of the three troops who were killed.
Syrian state television reported that the strikes killed and wounded people, but it did not specify how many.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the targets were selected to avoid civilian casualties.
The targets were “based on a clear, irrefutable evidence they were connected to attacks on U.S personnel in the region,” he said.
The Iraqi army condemned the U.S. airstrikes against Iran-backed militias, calling the move a “violation of Iraqi sovereignty” and “a threat that will drag Iraq and the region into unforeseen consequences.”
Kirby added the U.S. told the Iraqi government about the strikes before they were launched.
“The American administration committed a new aggression against the sovereignty of Iraq, as the locations of our security forces, in the Akashat and Al-Qaim regions, as well as neighboring civilian places, were bombed by several American aircraft,” said the Iraqi government. “This blatant aggression led to 16 martyrs, including civilians, in addition to 25 wounded. It also caused losses and damage to residential buildings and citizens’ property.”
The Iraqi government also said the strikes would “put security in Iraq and the region on the brink of the abyss”