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Biden orders strikes against ‘Iran-backed militias’ in Syria

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WASHINGTON: Presi­dent Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered air strikes in eastern Syria targeting “facilities used by Iranian-backed militias”, a US military spokesman said.

The strikes in oil-rich Deir Ezzor province “targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, Central Command (Centcom) spokesman Colonel Joe Buccino claimed in a statement.

Buccino said the “precision strikes are intended to defend and protect US forces from attacks like the ones on August 15 against US personnel by Iran-backed groups”, when a number of drones targeted an outpost of US-led anti-jihadist forces without causing any casualties.

Tuesday’s air strikes hit nine bunkers in a complex used for ammunition storage and logistics, the colonel told CNN separately.

Tehran says it has deployed forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus and only as advisers

The US military had originally intended to hit 11 of 13 bunkers in the complex but called off strikes on two after groups of people were seen near them, he said, adding an initial assessment indicated no one had been killed.

US forces “took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimise the risk of casualties”, the Centcom statement said.

“The United States does not seek conflict, but will continue to take necessary measures to protect and defend our people.” Hundreds of American troops are deployed in Syria’s northeast as part of a coalition focused on fighting remnants of the militant Islamic State group.

There was no immediate confirmation of the US strikes from Syrian state media.

Earlier, Iranian state media said a Revolutionary Guard general “who was on a mission in Syria as a military adviser” had been killed on Sunday.

The reports did not say how the general was killed, only describing him as a “defender of the sanctuary”, a term used for those who work on behalf of Iran in Syria or Iraq.

Iran says it has deployed its forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus and only as advisers.

The Islamic Revolut­ionary Guards Corps is the ideological arm of the Iranian military and is blacklisted as a “terrorist” group by the United States.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday said the strikes killed six fighters that were guarding the targeted facilities.

The monitor, which relies on a wide network of sources in Syria, said it could not immediately determine the nationalities of those killed.

It said that Iran-backed Afghan Shia fighters are among the groups operating in the region.

Arms depots and a training camp for Iran-backed militia fighters were among the targets hit, according to the monitor.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2022

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