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Three U.S. troops in Syria suffer minor injuries in rocket attacks launched by suspected Iran-backed militants

Three U.S. service members suffered minor injuries during coordinated attacks Wednesday by suspected Iranian-backed militants in northeast Syria, according to a statement from the Pentagon. 

The militants had launched rockets targeting U.S. forces at two locations in Syria. At Mission Support Site Conoco, one U.S. service member was treated for a minor injury and has already returned to duty, while two others are undergoing evaluation for minor injuries. 

The attack started around 7:20 p.m. local time in Syria when several rockets landed inside the perimeter of the Conoco site followed by more rockets near Mission Support Site Green Village. 

In response, the U.S. used attack helicopters to destroy three vehicles and equipment used to launch some of the attacks. Initial assessments suggested two to three Iran-backed militants died during the U.S. counterattack, but on Thursday, U.S. Central Command said four militants were killed.

CENTCOM commander Michael Kurilla said on Thursday in a statement that U.S. forces, responding to rocket attacks on Mission Support Sites Conoco and Green Village "struck at Iran-affiliated militants in the area with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, AC-130 gunships, and M777 artillery, resulting in four enemy fighters killed and seven enemy rocket launchers destroyed."

A day earlier, CENTCOM said of the response that it "was proportional and deliberate. The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we will continue to take the measures necessary to protect and defend our people." 

There are currently about 900 U.S. troops in Syria. 

The attack and the U.S. response come after the U.S. had launched airstrikes Tuesday in Syria destroying several ammunition and logistics bunkers used by militia groups backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC.) 

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl told reporters the U.S. strikes Tuesday had destroyed nine bunkers used by militia groups affiliated with the IRGC. 

Tuesday's airstrikes were in part a response to an attempted drone attack on U.S. forces in Syria on Aug. 15, which Kahl said had been coordinated against two U.S. facilities at one time.The drone parts that were collected afterwards were traced directly to Tehran. 

Kahl said the concern was that the Aug. 15 attack "might be an indication that Iran intends to do more of this, and we wanted to disabuse them of any sense that that was a good idea." 

He also said that the strikes showed that the U.S. commitment to defending its forces against Iranian-backed groups is unrelated to diplomatic efforts to revive the Iran Nuclear Deal. The U.S. on Wednesday responded to Iran's comments on the latest draft of the deal and indicated that while a deal is closer now than it was a couple of weeks ago, not every gap has been bridged. 

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