20:01 GMT27 January 2020
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    Earlier on Sunday, US forces carried out strikes targeting five Kata'ib Hezbollah facilities in Syria and Iraq, including weapons storage locations and command and control bases. Esper said that Washington was ready for additional measures against Iran, if and when necessary.

    US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper has said that the "defensive airstrikes" conducted on Sunday in Syria and Iraq were successful, adding that US officials had initially discussed other options with President Donald Trump, Reuters reported.

    "The strikes were successful. The pilots and aircraft returned back to base safely. I would add that in our discussion today with the president, we discussed with him other options that are available. And I would note also that we will take additional actions as necessary to ensure that we act in our own self-defence and we deter further bad behavior from militia groups or from Iran", Esper said.

    He said the strikes had been carried out by F-15 Strike Eagles fighter aircraft against five targets associated with Kata'ib Hezbollah, including three targets in western Iraq and two targets in eastern Syria that were either command and control facilities or weapons caches of the militia.

    Esper characterised them as "offensive actions against the Iran-sponsored group", meaning Kata'ib Hezbollah.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said that the US officials had briefed Trump on the airstrikes that were conducted "in response to the threat against the American forces". 

    "We will not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy", Pompeo told reporters after the briefing in Palm Beach, Florida.

    The death toll from the drone attacks of the United States against the Kata'ib Hezbollah militia in Iraq stands at 25, with 51 people injured, the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, said in a statement.

    The airstrikes follow a rocket attack on a base in northern Iraq on Friday which the US claims was likely carried out by an Iran-allied militia group.

    Kata'ib Hezbollah, not to be confused with the Hezbollah group of Lebanon, is a Shia-based paramilitary force established in 2007 and operating under the Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella. Washington designates them as terrorists.

    Tags:
    Iran, Shia, Syria, Iraq, Pentagon, defence, Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Mark Esper, United States
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