U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon last week. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption
Alex Wong/Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon last week.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The U.S. is retaliating after a drone strike killed a U.S. contractor, injured five American service members and wounded one other contractor in Syria, Defense Department said on Thursday.
Intelligence sources found the drone, which struck a Syrian coalition base, was of Iranian origin, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
U.S. Central Command conducted “precision airstrikes” on targets it believed were connected with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Pentagon 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,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.”
Videos shared on social media showed explosions in Deir el-Zour, a Syrian province near the Iraq border that contains oil fields. The area is controlled by Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces, according to the Associated Press. In recent months, the region has been hit by suspected airstrikes by Israel targeting alleged Iranian supply routes.
Thursday’s strikes pose a threat to recent negotiations aimed at de-escalating tensions across the Middle East after decades of conflict. Earlier this month, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic ties in a deal brokered by China, raising questions about whether U.S. influence in the region was on the decline.
Neither Iran nor Syria appeared to immediately acknowledge the strikes.
Austin said that Thursday’s drone strike followed recent Iranian attacks against coalition forces.
Iran has launched an estimated 78 attacks on U.S. forces in Syria since January 2021, U.S. Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, who heads Central Command, told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
In a statement following Thursday’s airstrikes, Kurilla said the Army was “postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks.”
“We will always take all necessary measures to defend our people,” he wrote.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
NPR’s Peter Kenyon contributing reporting.