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Air raids over eastern Syria near Iraqi border kill 6 Iran-backed militants

Biden last week ordered the U.S. military to carry out strikes on Iranian-backed Iraqi groups
This image made from militant video posted online on Tuesday, April. 18, 2017 by the Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, purports to shows destroyed houses following a U.S.-led coalition strike in the eastern Syrian town of Boukamal, on the Iraqi border. Boukamal was the site of another attack Dec. 30, 2023. (Aamaq News Agency via AP)

Three overnight airstrikes on eastern Syria near a strategic border crossing with Iraq killed six Iran-backed militants Saturday, two members of Iraqi militia groups told The Associated Press.

The strikes on the border region of Boukamal came hours after an umbrella group of Iran-backed Iraqi militants known as the Islamic Resistance claimed an attack on a U.S. military base in northern Iraq’s city of Irbil.

The group has conducted over a hundred attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq and eastern Syria since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

Four of the militants killed were from Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group, while the other two were Syrian, the militia group members said. Another two were injured, they added. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not cleared to speak with journalists.

Meanwhile, an activist collective that covers news in the area, Deir Ezzor 24, said the airstrikes hit two militant posts and a weapons warehouse that it says was recently stocked with rocket launchers and munitions.

Britain-backed opposition war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in addition to the weapons warehouse, the strikes targeted a militants’ convoy that had arrived in Syria from Iraq and a location where a militia affiliated with Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was training.

The monitoring group reported that the strikes killed nine people — three Syrians and six people from other nationalities.

A U.S. official said the United States did not carry out the strikes. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

Washington has confirmed previous strikes on Iran-backed militia positions following the surge of attacks over the past two months.

President Joe Biden last week ordered the U.S. military to carry out strikes on Iranian-backed Iraqi groups following a rocket attack that wounded three U.S. troops.

The spike in tension has put Baghdad in a delicate situation. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has tried to ease the strain between the militant groups that helped him reach power and the U.S. where Iraq’s foreign reserves are housed.

The Boukamal region in Deir el-Zour, Syria, located along the Iraqi border, has been a strategic area for Iran-backed militants since it was taken back from the extremist Islamic State group in 2019. U.S. coalition forces conducted strikes targeting convoys there before the recent spike in tensions.

Qassim Abdul-zahra And Kareem Chehayeb, The Associated Press