Shiite militias in Iraq
Shiite militias in IraqReuters

The US on Tuesday night carried out air strikes in Iraq targeting facilities used by Iranian-backed militias.

The strikes targeted three facilities used by Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah and other Tehran-affiliated groups in Iraq, and followed repeated attacks on US forces, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Austin said in a statement quoted by CNN that the strikes “are in direct response to a series of escalatory attacks against US and coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria” by Iranian-backed militia groups.

US Central Command also released a statement which said that US forces “conducted unilateral airstrikes” targeting “KH headquarters, storage, and training locations for rocket, missile, and one-way attack UAV capabilities.”

“I am grateful for both the skill and professionalism with which our personnel planned and conducted these strikes and the continued efforts of our troops on the ground as they work with regional partners to further dismantle and degrade ISIS,” Austin said in Tuesday’s statement.

“The President and I will not hesitate to take necessary action to defend them and our interests. We do not seek to escalate conflict in the region. We are fully prepared to take further measures to protect our people and our facilities. We call on these groups and their Iranian sponsors to immediately cease these attacks,” Austin added.

In recent months there have been dozens of attacks on bases in Iraq and Syria which host US troops.

The US military has retaliated several times by striking Iranian-linked sites in both Iraq and Syria.

On Saturday night, US personnel at Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq were injured in a ballistic missile and rocket attack on the base.

While most missiles and rockets were intercepted by the base’s air defenses, some projectiles made impact, US Central Command said over the weekend.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday that a total of four US troops were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury as a result of the attack, and all had since returned to duty.