WASHINGTON -- The US military on Tuesday (August 23) conducted precision air strikes in eastern Syria targeting facilities used by Iranian-backed militias, US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a statement.
The strikes in Deir Ezzor province "targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC]", CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said.
"These precision strikes are intended to defend and protect US forces from attacks like the ones on August 15 against US personnel by Iran-backed groups," Buccino said, referring to when a number of drones targeted the al-Tanf base without causing any casualties.
Iran-backed forces are deployed near al-Tanf, a desert garrison in southern Syria, on the strategic Baghdad-Damascus highway, near the Syrian border with Iraq and Jordan.
The base houses US troops, part of a coalition focused on fighting remnants of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), as well as anti-militant Jaish Maghawir al-Thawra forces.
US forces "took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimise the risk of casualties", Buccino said.
"The United States does not seek conflict, but will continue to take necessary measures to protect and defend our people."
"The strike ... demonstrates our resolve to defend US forces and equipment", CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla said in a statement posted to Twitter.
After more than 400 hours of surveillance, Tuesday's air strikes hit nine bunkers in a complex Iranian-backed groups used for ammunition storage and logistics, Buccino told CNN.
The US military had originally intended to hit 11 of 13 bunkers in the complex, but CENTCOM called off strikes on two after spotting groups of people near them, he said, adding an initial assessment indicated no one had been killed.
The strikes hit a camp run by the IRGC's Fatemiyoun Division, which mainly comprises Shia fighters from Afghanistan, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday.
Arms depots and a training camp for the group's fighters were among the targets hit, according to the monitor.
The IRGC is the ideological arm of the Iranian military and is blacklisted as a "terrorist" group by the United States.
Iran says it has deployed its forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus and only as advisers.
Drones manufactured and supplied by Iran have flooded countries around the region that host Iran-backed militias.
Lebanese Hizbullah specialists have been training members of the Fatemiyoun militia on operating drones in the Syrian Badiya (eastern desert), near Palmyra, according to recent reports.
In Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi militia has used Iranian drones on many occasions to strike installations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In Iraq, Iran-backed militias have used Iranian drones for years to hit foreign military bases and targets in the Arabian Gulf.