US pounds IS targets in Iraq with drones and jets

US pounds IS targets in Iraq with drones and jets

Friday, August 8, 2014 11:19 pm


 US forces launched a second wave of air strikes against Islamic extremists near Arbil in northern Iraq on Friday, destroying a militant convoy and killing a mortar team, the Pentagon said.

Shortly after 1400 GMT, US drones destroyed a mortar position and killed a group of militants. Just over an hour later four F/A-18 jets hit a seven-vehicle Islamic State convoy with eight laser-guided bombs.

“The US military continued to attack ISIL targets near Arbil today conducting two additional air strikes to help defend the city where US personnel are assisting the government of Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he had authorized US air strikes to prevent fighters from the so-called Islamic State from attacking the capital of the Iraqi Kurdish region.

an F/A-18E Super Hornets  attached to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)on August 1, 2014 in the Gulf.

an F/A-18E Super Hornets attached to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)on August 1, 2014 in the Gulf.

The strikes are also designed to break the siege of Mount Sinjar, where IS forces have cornered and reportedly threatened to kill thousands of civilian refugees from the Yazidi religious minority.

Overnight, a first strike saw an F/A-18 hit an IS artillery position with a 500lb bomb. Shortly beforehand US military planes had dropped food and water to the beleaguered Yazidis.

Friday’s second wave saw unmanned drones brought into action.

“Remotely piloted aircraft struck a terrorist mortar position. When ISIL fighters returned to the site moments later, the terrorists were attacked again and successfully eliminated,” Kirby said.

“At approximately 11:20 a.m. EDT, four F/A-18 aircraft successfully struck a stationary ISIL convoy of seven vehicles and a mortar position near Arbil,” his statement continued.

“The aircraft executed two planned passes. On both runs, each aircraft dropped one laser guided bomb making a total of eight bombs dropped on target neutralizing the mortar and convoy.”

The State Department said that Obama — an outspoken critic of the controversial 2003 invasion of Iraq — was on firm legal ground as leaders in Baghdad, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, supported the operation.

“The Iraqi government and Iraqi leaders from all different parts of Iraq and different sects and different parties have invited us in and, indeed, asked us for this assistance. So that is the principle that applies there,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

Critics have challenged the legal basis of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was not specifically authorized by the UN Security Council.

Former US president George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair ordered the war to topple dictator Saddam Hussein after citing unproven allegations that he was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Obama, who insisted that he would not send ground troops back into Iraq, will soon send a formal notification of the operation to Congress as required under the War Powers Act, Harf said.

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