#AceBreakingNews – UNITED STATES – September 16 – The United States launched air-strikes in Iraq on Monday in what defence officials said is the start of an expanded action against Islamic State extremists Washington Post and USA Today reported with Video link: Senate Armed Services hearing on Islamic State
The U.S. military’s Central Command said both fighter and attack aircraft conducted separate air-strikes Sunday and Monday in support of Iraqi forces south-west of Baghdad and near Sinjar, Iraq.
The strikes were described as the first to provide direct aid for Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic militant 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 Obama last week announced that a broader campaign would seek to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State group, which sometimes is referred to by the acronym ISIL or ISIS.
In total, the strikes destroyed six vehicles near Sinjar and an ISIL fighting position southwest of Baghdad that was firing on Iraqi personnel, the military said in a statement. All U.S. aircraft exited the strike areas safely.
“The air-strike south-west of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offence, 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 centred on Islamic State 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 Islamic State has access to 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria.
In Paris, where other nations were pledging support, Kerry said the United States was open to talks with Iran about a role but ruled out military coordination.
“That doesn’t mean that we are opposed to the idea of communicating to find out if they will come on board, or under what circumstances, or whether there is the possibility of a change,” Kerry told reporters.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday that he had rejected U.S. overtures to join a coalition against the Islamic State extremists because Americans have “evil intentions and dirty hands.”
Khamenei, speaking to reporters upon his release from a Tehran hospital after prostate surgery, said Washington’s aim in building up an international group to fight in Iraq and Syria is to create “a playground where they can enter freely and bomb at will.”
Iran opposes the Islamic State but is wary of working with the United States to oppose it.
The U.S., in turn, has said it will not coordinate militarily with Iran in the fight against the Islamic State militants.
Contributing: Jim Michaels in Washington; Doug Stanglin in McLean, Va.