US carries out airstrikes against militants in Iraq following morning attack on Erbil Air Base

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(NEW YORK) — U.S. military forces carried out multiple airstrikes on facilities in Iraq used by Kataib Hezbollah — an Iraqi paramilitary group also known as the Hezbollah Brigades — and its affiliates on Christmas night, according to statements released by the Department of Defense.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the strikes were carried out at the direction of President Joe Biden and in response to attacks carried out by the groups against coalition forces in the region. One of those attacks was on Erbil Air Base earlier on Dec. 25, which resulted in injuries to three U.S. personnel. One service member was left in critical condition as a result of the air base attack, according to a statement from the Defense secretary.

“My prayers are with the brave Americans who were injured,” Austin said in his statement.

“And let me be clear – the President and I will not hesitate to take necessary action to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests,” his statement continued. “There is no higher priority. While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities.”

According to early assessments by CENTCOM, the targeted facilities were destroyed, and there are no signs that any civilians were impacted.

“These strikes are intended to hold accountable those elements directly responsible for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and degrade their ability to continue attacks,” General Michael Erik Kurilla, U.S. Central Command Commander, said in a statement. “We will always protect our forces.”

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the president was “immediately briefed on the attack this morning, and he ordered the Department of Defense to prepare response options against those responsible.”

On a call later with Sec. Austin, Biden ordered the strikes against three locations utilized by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups, focused specifically on unmanned aerial drone activities, according to the statement.

“The President places no higher priority than the protection of American personnel serving in harm’s way. The United States will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue,” Watson’s statement read.

 

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