Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that U.S. forces conducted airstrikes in Syria in response to a drone strike that killed a U.S. contractor and injured six others. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
March 24 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes in northeast Syria Thursday in retaliation for a drone strike that killed an American contractor and wounded six others, including five U.S. service members.
Afterward, Iran-backed fighters in Syria apparently launched retaliatory rocket strikes on another U.S. base, according to news reports, but no injuries were reported at the Green Village base in northeastern Syria, according to U.S. Central Command spokesman Maj. John Moore.
U.S. forces targeted proxy sites used by groups affiliated with the Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the Defense Department said was responsible for the Thursday attack in which an unmanned drone bombed a maintenance facility on a Coalition base near Hasakah.
Two of the injured were treated on site, while three other injured service members and a U.S. contractor were airlifted to Coalition medical facilities in neighboring Iraq.
"The airstrikes were conducted in response to today's attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC," U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
"As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing ... No group will strike our troops with impunity."
The U.S. strikes were intended to prevent further enemy attacks and limit further casualties and instability throughout the Middle East region, Austin said in a statement.
Austin also offered condolences to the victims' families, while the U.S. military has not yet identified any of the dead or injured.
"Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of the contractor who was killed and with those who were wounded in the attack earlier today," Austin said.
Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command in the region, also sent thoughts and prayers to the families, noting that U.S. troops have remained in Syria to battle and keep pressure on ISIS and to support the Syrian Democratic Forces, while Iran continues to provide backing to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We will always take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing," Kurilla said. "We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks."
U.S. military personnel stationed in the region live under constant threat of attack.
In February, U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone that was conducting reconnaissance near the same U.S. patrol base, and the month before, three drone attacks on an outpost in southern Syria injured several Syrian Democratic Forces fighters.