US conducts airstrikes in Iraq, Syria after contractor killed

The U.S. military carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday — days after a U.S. defense contractor was killed at a military compound in a rocket attack.

Military jet fighters conducted “precision defensive strikes” on five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Jonathan Hoffman, a spokesperson for the Pentagon told Fox News. Two defense officials added that Air Force F-15 jet fighters carried out the strikes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien traveled Sunday to Mar-a-Lago in Florida to meet with President Trump and discuss the strikes, a senior administration official told Fox News.

U.S. officials have blamed the militia for a rocket barrage Friday that killed a U.S. defense contractor, wounded four U.S. troops and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.

U.S. Air Force F-15 jet fighters carried out the strikes, two U.S. defense officials told Fox News.

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Military forces said the attackers fired more than 30 rockets in Friday’s assault — the 11th rocket attack on U.S. and Iraqi forces since late October, according to a U.S. defense official.

Five locations — including three Kataeb Hezbollah areas in Iraq and two in Syria — were targeted, Hoffman said in a statement.

He said the U.S. strikes will weaken the group’s ability to carry out future attacks on Americans and their Iraqi government allies.

US conducts airstrikes against Iran-backed proxy forces in Iraq, Syria
Earlier this month, Pompeo blamed Iran for two separate rocket attacks on the Baghdad International Airport, on Dec. 9 and 11, where U.S. and Iraqi forces are located on the other side of the commercial airport.

Pompeo said if any Americans were harmed in the future, it would “be answered with a decisive U.S. response.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., responded: “Today’s strikes against Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria are a justified response to the killing of an American and the wounding of several American service members and Iraqis. Tehran must stop attacking Americans or else face even graver consequences.”

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