The US military carries out airstrikes in Syria after a drone strike kills an American contractor

WASHINGTON — The US military carried out retaliatory airstrikes in eastern Syria on Thursday against Iranian-backed groups after a deadly drone strike targeting a US base in the region killed a US contractor and injured six others, including five US military service members, the Pentagon said. .

“Earlier today, a US contractor was killed and five US service members and one other US contractor were injured after a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle hit a maintenance facility at a Coalition base near Hasakah in northeastern Syria at around 13:38 local time,” the statement said. the Pentagon in a statement.

Two of the wounded service members were treated at the site, while four other Americans were medically evacuated to Coalition medical facilities in Iraq, officials said.

US intelligence assessed that the one-way strike drone that attacked the base had Iranian origins, according to the statement.

FILE – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, November 3, 2022, in Washington.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

“Under the direction of the President (joe) Biden, I authorize US Central Command troops to conduct precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities being used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement issued Thursday. Evening.

“The airstrikes were carried out in response to today's attacks, as well as the series of recent attacks on Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” he added.

The US has about 900 troops in eastern Syria providing assistance to Syrian Kurdish forces in preventing the resurgence of ISIS.

In recent months, several bases have been targeted by drone attacks which, in most cases, have caused no injuries or physical damage. Iran-backed groups in Syria are believed to be responsible for these attacks.

“This precision strike was intended to protect and defend US personnel. The United States took proportionate and deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties,” the Pentagon statement said.

“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary actions to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will attack our troops with impunity.”

“Our prayers are with the families and colleagues of the contractors who died and those injured in today's attack,” the defense minister added.

During Thursday's House Armed Services Committee hearing focused on the Middle East and Africa, US Central Command leader General Michael “Erik” Kurilla was questioned by Rep. Nebraska's Don Bacon on the frequency of Iranian proxy attacks on US troops.

There have been 78 such attacks since the start of 2021, according to Kurilla.

“It's periodic. We see periods where they will do more,” Kurilla said

“So what Iran is doing to hide its hands is they are using Iranian proxies – which are under UAVs or rockets – to be able to attack our troops in Iraq or Syria,” he added.

ABC News' Matt Seyler contributed to this report.