U.S. Expands Action Against IS in Iraq

September 15, 2014  

The United States launched airstrikes in Iraq on Monday in what defense officials said is the start of an expanded action against Islamic State extremists, USA Today reports.

Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, said both fighter and attack aircraft conducted separate airstrikes Sunday and Monday in support of Iraqi forces southwest of Baghdad and near Sinjar, Iraq.

The strikes were described as the first to provide direct aid for Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic group, as previous actions were conducted to protect U.S. personnel and interests. Iraqi forces requested assistance when they came under fire from militants.

President Barack Obama last week announced that a broader campaign would seek to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the “Islamic State” (IS) group.

In total, the strikes destroyed six vehicles near Sinjar and an IS fighting position southwest of Baghdad that was firing on Iraqi personnel, the military said in a statement quoted by USA Today.

 All U.S. aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit IS targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the President’s speech last Wednesday,” the U.S. Central Command’s statement said.

No U.S. forces on ground called in the air strike, officials said.

Since air strikes began last month, the attacks had been centered on IS fighters in northern Iraq, near dams at Mosul and Haditha and to protect refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar.

Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday in Paris with diplomatic leaders from more than a dozen countries as the administration tries to round up allies to help battle the extremists.

U.S. forces have carried out a total of 162 airstrikes across Iraq, the military said.

The CIA estimates that IS has access to 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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