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US officials believe Iran-backed group is responsible for latest rocket attack in Iraq

A U.S. entrepreneur suffered a fatal heart episode while taking shelter during the attack, which was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat rocket launches that raised concerns over escalating tensions In the region. No member of the US service was reported injured.

Later Thursday, Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.) told CNN that to his knowledge the attack was carried out by “Iranian surrogates in the region”.

“They gave them the green light to carry out these kinds of attacks. There must be consequences for that,” said Menendez, chairman of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, urging the president to “come to Congress” before. to order a military response.

Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) Also blamed Tehran for the attack, saying it had “all the characteristics of Iran-backed militias.”

The Iranian regime appears determined to attack the Americans at the same time as the Biden administration wants to grant sanctions relief to Tehran, “Hagerty tweeted.

The Biden administration has yet to publicly blame Tehran for the latest attack, which came just days after US fighter jets bombed military positions used by Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups. in eastern Syria at the end of last week.

“We cannot assign responsibility at this time, and we do not have a full picture of the extent of the damage,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Wednesday.

Biden ordered last week’s attack in Syria, which destroyed planned targets and killed at least one activist, after officials determined Iran had facilitated three separate attacks in Iraq that put Americans at risk.

Iraqi security forces were at the scene “almost immediately” after Wednesday’s attack, Kirby said. Iraqi media reported that investigators found a rocket launcher hidden inside a civilian truck that they said was used in the attack.

The circumstances of the latest strike on al-Assad are similar to past attacks linked to Kataib Hezbollah, the defense officials said. While a myriad of Shiite militias in Iraq often take over Tehran, they are not always under Iranian direct control.

Kataib Hezbollah also reportedly carried out an attack in December 2019 on the K-1 airbase in Iraq that killed an American contractor and injured Iraqi and American troops, triggering a flurry of attacks that resulted in President Donald’s order. Trump. the murder of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani. Kataib Hezbollah commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the strike.

In response to Soleimani’s strike, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps launched a missile barrage on al-Assad on January 8, 2020. More than 100 US soldiers suffered head injuries in the incident.

Kirby called for caution following this latest attack, but said the United States would respond if necessary.

“Let our Iraqi partners investigate,” he said. “If an answer is warranted, I think we’ve made it clear that we’re not going to shy away from this.”

Nick Niedzwiadek contributed to this report.

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