US strikes near Syria-Iraq border kill 5 militia fighters

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WASHINGTON – US strikes on eastern Syria near the border with Iraq killed at least five Iran-backed militia fighters, a war monitor reported on Monday (June 28).

“At least 5 Iran-backed Iraqi militia fighters were killed and several others were wounded in an attack by US warplanes” on the Syrian side of the frontier, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The war monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria to collect information, said that military positions were among the targets hit.

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

The strikes, confirmed by the Pentagon in a statement, mark the second such US attack on Iran-backed militias in Syria since President Joe Biden took office.

“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision air strikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The facilities were used by militia groups, including Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada, two hardline Iraqi military factions with close ties to Teheran, the Pentagon added.

“These facilities are utilised by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq,” said Mr Kirby.

US interests in Iraq have come under repeated attack in recent months, with the United States consistently blaming Iran-linked Iraqi factions for rocket and other attacks against Iraqi installations housing its personnel.

Since the start of the year there have been more than 40 attacks against US interests in Iraq, where 2,500 American troops are deployed as part of an international coalition to fight the jihadist Islamic State group.

The vast majority have been bombs against logistics convoys, while 14 were rocket attacks, some of them claimed by pro-Iran factions that aim to pressure Washington into withdrawing all their troops.

The strikes come one day after Iraqi Kurdish officials said three explosives-laden drones hit near the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, where the United States has a consulate.

It also occurred as the Hashed al-Shaabi, a pro-Iran paramilitary alliance opposed to the US presence in Iraq, held a military parade near Baghdad attended by senior officials.

In April, a drone packed with explosives hit the coalition’s Iraq headquarters in the military part of the airport in Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital.

The tactic poses a headache for the coalition, as drones can evade air defences.

“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect US personnel,” Mr Kirby said.

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