Iran-Backed Group Critically Injures U.S. Service Member in Iraq on Christmas Day

NASIRIYAH, IRAQ - DECEMBER 02: A U.S. Army armored vehicle flies an American flag as it pr
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Three U.S. service members were injured — including one critically — in a one-way drone attack by an Iran-backed in northern Iraq on Christmas Day, according to a National Security Council statement.

“Early this morning in northern Iraq, U.S. military personnel were targeted by a one-way attack drone. The attack wounded three U.S. service-members, one critically,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

The troops were stationed in Erbil, Iraq, according to Central Command (Centcom).

It is the first time a U.S. service member has been critically injured in the wave of Iran-backed attacks against U.S. troops since they began on October 17, 2023. To date, there have been more than 100 attacks against U.S. troops in the region.

The Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups, under an umbrella of Iranian-backed militants, claimed credit for the attack, according to the NSC.

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President Joe Biden was “immediately briefed on the attack,” the NSC said, and ordered the Department of Defense to prepare response options. The options were presented to him during a call in the afternoon, and he directed strikes against “three locations utilized by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups focused specifically on unmanned aerial drone activities.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the strikes were “necessary and proportionate.”

“Today’s attack led to three injuries to U.S. personnel, leaving one service member in critical condition. My prayers are with the brave Americans who were injured,” he said.

He added:

And let me be clear – the President and I will not hesitate to take necessary action to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests. There is no higher priority. While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities.

Centcom said in a statement that early assessments indicate that the U.S. airstrikes “destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants.”

“There are no indications that any civilian lives were affected. The U.S. military will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these strikes,” it added.

“These strikes are intended to hold accountable those elements directly responsible for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and degrade their ability to continue attacks. We will always protect our forces,” said Centcom Commander Army General Michael Erik Kurilla.

Centcom said the strikes were in response to “multiple attacks” against troops in both Iraq and Syria.

It said it the airstrikes were conducted in Iraq at 8:45 p.m. EST.

Iran-backed groups began the attacks had threatened to attack U.S. troops in the region if Israel, a U.S. ally, retaliated against Hamas, after the Palestinian terrorist group conducted an attack against Israel on October 7. The Pentagon has claimed the attacks on U.S. troops are unrelated to the Israel-Hamas war, and that Iran-backed groups are trying to take advantage of the situation to drive U.S. forces out.

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