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US airstrikes hit Kataib Hezbollah sites in Iraq after attack on US troops

By Samantha Waldenberg, Brad Lendon and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN

(CNN) — The US military carried out airstrikes on three facilities used by the Iraq-based Kataib Hezbollah and “affiliated groups” on Monday night after an attack injured three US troops, leaving one in critical condition, the White House said.

A US Central Command statement said early assessments indicated that the US airstrikes, ordered by President Joe Biden, “likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants.”

The Iranian-backed militant group earlier claimed credit for using a one-way attack drone to target the US forces on Erbil Air Base on Monday morning, the White House said.

A statement from US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US airstrikes on “three locations utilized by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups focused specifically on unmanned aerial drone activities.”

The strikes on the Kataib Hezbollah facilities occurred at 8:45 p.m. ET, according to CENTCOM. “There are no indications that any civilian lives were affected,” the statement said.

The Iraqi government, however, said in a statement that one security “serviceman” was killed and 18 others, “including civilians,” were injured. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office referred to the airstrikes as “hostile acts” that “infringe upon Iraq’s sovereignty and are deemed unacceptable under any circumstances or justification.”

The Iraqi government stressed that such attacks could harm relations between the two countries. “It is a clearly hostile, unconstructive act that does not serve the interests of long-term common interests,” the statement said.

Kataib Hezbollah is a Shia militant group that “poses a high threat” to US personnel in both Iraq and Syria, according to the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) website.

It says the group wants to expel US and coalition forces from Iraq and set up an Iranian-aligned government there. The group also operates in Syria, the DNI says.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin briefed the president on Monday afternoon, the White House said. Several options were presented to the president, and Biden ordered the strikes during that call.

In a statement, Austin said Monday’s airstrikes were carried out in response to the Erbil attack and other attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria.

Austin called the US airstrikes “necessary and proportionate.”

The security “serviceman” referenced in the Iraqi prime minister’s statement was a member of Hashd Al-Shaabi, known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a predominantly Shia paramilitary force, according to a statement released by the group. In 2016, the Iraqi parliament passed a bill recognizing the Shia militia fighters as a government entity operating alongside the Iraqi military.

The US, however, views the PMU as Iran-backed militias and consider some of them responsible for carrying out attacks on US sites in Iraq and Syria.

This headline and story have been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Aqeel Najim contributed to this report.

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