The US launched airstrikes Thursday in Iraq, targeting the Iranian-backed Shia militia members believed responsible for the rocket attack that killed and wounded American and British troops at a base north of Baghdad, the Pentagon said. US officials said multiple strikes by US fighter jets hit five locations and mainly targeted Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities inside Iraq. A Defense Department statement said the strikes targeted five weapons storage facilities "to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks." The strikes marked a rapid escalation in tensions with Tehran and its proxy groups in Iraq, just two months after Iran carried out a massive ballistic missile attack against American troops at a base in Iraq, the AP reports.
The strikes came hours after US defense leaders threatened retaliation for the Wednesday attack, making clear that they knew who did it and that the attackers would be held accountable. "The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. The Pentagon called the counterattack "defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat" posed by the Iranian-backed Shia militia groups. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon earlier Thursday that President Trump had given him the authority to take whatever action he deemed necessary "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."
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