Iraqi security forces are seen in a helicopter during military operations to search for militants in Anbar province on Sunday.—Reuters
Iraqi security forces are seen in a helicopter during military operations to search for militants in Anbar province on Sunday.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: The US military has carried out “defensive strikes” in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, the US Pentagon said on Sunday, two days after a US civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

The Pentagon said it targeted three locations of the Iranian-backed militia gro­up in Iraq and two in Syria. The locations inclu­ded wea­p­ons storage facilities and command and control locations the group had used to plan and execute attacks on coalition forces, it said.

The United States had accused the group of the 30-plus rocket attack on Friday that killed the US civilian contractor and injured four US service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, US forces have conducted precision defensive strikes ... that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces” chief Pentagon spok­e­sman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

In Iraq, several Iraqi militia fighters were killed on Sunday in an air strike on their headquarters near the western Qaim district on the border with Syria, military sources and militia commanders said.

The strike was likely carried out by drones and targeted Kataib Hezbollah, the sources said. Ambulances were heading to the area.

Three bodies, including one of a local commander, had so far arrived at a field hospital near Qaim, an Iraqi army officer said.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2019