US strikes back after rocket attack in Iraq
Kata’ib Hezbollah is accused of attack that killed British soldier and 11 others
US forces have carried out air strikes in Iraq against what the Pentagon claims are five weapons storage sites run by an Iranian-back militia.
The strikes came in response to a rocket attack which killed two American and one British soldier near Baghdad on Wednesday.
The Pentagon said the strikes were aimed at Kata’ib Hezbollah, a paramilitary group with strong ties with Tehran, which Washington blames for the attack.
A spokeswoman said 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 … coalition forces”.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said that Donald Trump had authorised him to take whatever action he deemed necessary.
“We’re going to take this one step at a time, but we’ve got to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Esper said. “You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it.”
The Washington Post reports that a separate Iran-backed militia, Harakat al-Nujaba, accused the US of hitting militia and Iraqi army headquarters, as well as a civilian airport. In a statement, it warned that further strikes could prompt retaliation involving an “eye for an eye”.
The latest exchange of fire comes two months after an escalation brought the US and Iran to the brink of direct conflict.
At least 12 people were injured in the rocket attack on Camp Taji, of Baghdad. Coalition and Iraqi officials say 18 Katyusha rockets struck the base, with a “rocket-rigged truck” later discovered a few miles away, reports Sky News.
Boris Johnson has described the attack as “deplorable”, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace condemned the “cowardly and retrograde act”.
The soldier who died was identified yesterday as Lance Cpl. Brodie Gillon, 26. She was a reservist and combat medical technician with the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry.
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