US launches airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia in Iraq, Syria

The U.S. launched five airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, the Trump administration announced Sunday. 

The U.S. launched F-15 Strike Eagles against five targets associated with Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia group, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperThree key behind-the-scenes figures in Jan. 6 probe Trump Defense chief blocked idea to send 250,000 troops to border: report Overnight Defense & National Security — Afghanistan concerns center stage with G-20 MORE told reporters Sunday at a briefing from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. 

“The strikes were successful,” Esper said. “The pilots and aircraft returned back to base safely.”

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The targets included three in western Iraq and two in eastern Syria that were either command and control facilities or weapons caches for the Iranian-backed militia group, Esper said. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoHillicon Valley — TikTok, Snapchat seek to distance themselves from Facebook State: US 'strongly opposes' Israeli settlement expansion Lawmakers praise upcoming establishment of cyber bureau at State MORE, who was with Esper in Florida to brief President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE, called the airstrikes a “decisive response” to what he said were threats against American forces that have "been going on now for weeks and weeks and weeks.” 

“This wasn’t the first set of attacks against this particular Iraqi facility and others where there were American lives at risk,” Pompeo said. 

An American contractor, several U.S. service members and Iraqi personnel were injured Friday in a rocket attack in northern Iraq. 

Esper said he discussed other available options with Trump and said the U.S. “will take additional actions as necessary” to act in self-defense.

The U.S. airstrikes killed at least 25 people, CNN reported, citing a statement from Popular Mobilization Units, a Tehran-backed Shiiite militia also known as Hashd al-Shaabi. 

The strikes occurred at about 11 a.m. on Sunday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.