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US warplanes strike Iran-backed militias in Syria, Iraq

WASHINGTON DC, USA: The United States carried out another round of air raids against Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq and Syria, in response to drone attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq, with the militias threatening to retaliate.

In a statement on Sunday, the US military said it targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq.

It did not say whether it believed anyone was killed or injured, but the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least five fighters were killed and several others wounded.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said one child had been killed and at least three other people were wounded.

The attacks came at the direction of US President Joe Biden, the second time he has ordered retaliatory attacks against Iran-backed militia since taking office five months ago. Biden last ordered limited bombing against a target in Syria in February, that time in response to rocket attacks in Iraq.

“The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” John Kirby, spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement.

Kirby said the targets were selected because “these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq”.

The Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada military factions were among the “several Iran-backed militia groups” that had used the targeted facilities, Kirby added.

Two Iraqi militia officials four militiamen were killed in the airstrikes near the border with Syria.

Armed groups aligned with Iran in a statement named four members of the Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada faction they said were killed in the attack on the Syria-Iraq border. They vowed to retaliate.

“We will remain the shield defending our beloved nation, and we are fully ready … to respond and take revenge,” it said.

The US now has 2,500 troops in Iraq, deployed as part of an international coalition to fight what remains of the ISIL (ISIS) group.

There have been more than 40 attacks against US interests in Iraq since the start of the year. The vast majority have been bombed against logistics convoys, while 14 were rocket attacks.

Two US officials, speaking to the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, also said Iran-backed militias had carried out at least five drone attacks against facilities in Iraq used by the US and coalition personnel since April.