U.S. launches strikes on group that attacked coalition base in Iraq

Alex Johnson and Courtney Kube

The U.S. launched airstrikes on weapons storage facilities in Iraq in retaliation for a rocket attack that killed two U.S. service members and a British soldier, the Defense Department said Thursday.

The strikes, which the Pentagon said targeted five facilities, some of which it said housed weapons used to target U.S. and coalition forces, "were defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups."

Fourteen other people were injured in the rocket attack Wednesday evening on Camp Taji, an Iraqi base north of Baghdad, the Pentagon said Thursday. Five were described as being in "urgent" condition.

The announcement came a few hours after Defense Secretary Mark Esper said President Donald Trump had given him the green light to respond to the attack on Wednesday however he saw fit.

"We're going to take this one step at a time, but we've got to hold the perpetrators accountable," Esper said at a news conference at the Pentagon. "You don't get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it."

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The U.S. airstrikes notably were on targets in Iraq, not Iran, whose government the U.S. accuses of backing the Shiite militias. Asked earlier Thursday whether a U.S. counterattack could include a strike inside Iran, he said the U.S. was "focused on the group that we believe perpetrated this in Iraq."