"I'm confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Thursday after the US launched airstrikes in Syria, targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes, Biden's first military action, were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and other coalition troops. An Iraqi militia official told the AP the strikes against the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, hit an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side. Syria war monitoring groups said the strikes hit trucks moving weapons to a base for Iranian-backed militias in Boukamal.
The US has in the past targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting US personnel and interests in Iraq. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the war in Syria, said 22 fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi umbrella group of mostly Shiite paramilitaries that includes Kataeb Hezbollah, were killed. The report could not be independently verified. Defense Secretary Austin said he was "confident" the US had hit back at the "the same Shia militants that conducted the strikes," referring to the Feb. 15 rocket attack. Austin said he had recommended the action to Biden. "We said a number of times that we will respond on our timeline," Austin said. "We wanted to be sure of the connectivity and we wanted to be sure that we had the right targets."
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