President Biden on Friday warned that the U.S. stands prepared to “act forcefully” to protect its citizens from attacks after a suspected Iranian-made drone was used in an attack that killed an American contractor and wounded at least five troops in Syria.
In remarks during a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, Mr. Biden offered his condolences to the families of those lost in the attack and commended the U.S. military for its response.
“Make no mistake, the U.S. does not … seek conflict with Iran but be prepared to act forcefully to protect our people,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened last night.”
The Defense Department said in a statement the drone used in the attack against a U.S. base in Syria on Thursday appeared to be of Iranian origin and U.S. Central Command said the attack was carried out by “groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”
Mr. Biden said he was briefed on the attack while aboard Air Force One en route to Canada and ordered a series of air strikes targeting those responsible.
The U.S. carried out those retaliatory strikes late Thursday, with two Air Force F-15E fighter jets targeting a munition warehouse and an intelligence-collection site in eastern Syria.
An opposition war monitor said the death toll from U.S. strikes included at least 11 Iranian-backed fighters — including six at an arms depot in the Harabesh neighborhood in the city of Deir el-Zour and five others at military posts near the towns of Mayadeen and Boukamel, the Associated Press reported.
Just hours after the retaliatory U.S. strikes, an American military base in northeastern Syria came under rocket fire, officials said. Pentagon officials did not say who they believe to be responsible for the Friday morning attack, but the timing of the assault on the Green Village site suggests that Iran-backed militias may be involved.
No Americans were injured and no equipment was damaged in Friday’s attack, officials said, but one of the rockets struck a nearby home. Two women and two children suffered minor injuries, the Pentagon said.
Military officials in the region suggested that the U.S. is prepared for larger strikes if the attacks continue.
“We’re going to continue to keep up our efforts to counter terrorist threats in the region and partnerships with Canada and other members of the coalition to defeat ISIS,” Mr. Biden said.
The U.S. force is in Syria as part of a mission to suppress Islamic State, but it has been caught up in the confusing struggle for control of Syria, which includes Syrian government forces, Kurdish groups, Islamist radicals such as ISIS, Syria rebel forces and Russian and Iranian elements supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad.
A militia with ties to Iran is believed to have been responsible for the deadly attack at the main coalition military base in Northeast Syria, with the drone strike coming when the base’s main air defense system was “not fully operational,” U.S. military officials said.
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- Ben Wolfgang contributed to this story, which was based in part on wire service reports.
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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