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EXCLUSIVE-U.S. carries out airstrike against Iranian-backed militia target in Syria, officials say

Reuters logo Reuters 2/25/2021 By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

(Adds detail on airstrike, background)

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike in Syria against a structure belonging to what it said were Iran-backed militia, two officials told Reuters, an apparent response to rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq.

While the strike could be the first retaliatory moves by the United States following last week's attacks, the move appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.

Also a decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq would give the Iraqi government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation of a Feb. 15 attack that wounded Americans.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the strike was approved by President Joe Biden. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Retaliatory U.S. military strikes have occurred a number of times in the past few years.

The rocket attacks against U.S. positions in Iraq were carried out as Washington and Tehran are looking for a way to return to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

In the Feb. 15 attack, rockets hit the U.S. military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region killing one non-American contractor and injuring a number of American contractors and a U.S. service member. Another salvo struck a base hosting U.S. forces north of Baghdad days later hurting at least one contractor. (Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

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