US begins airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq: Pentagon
Iran Press TV
Fri Aug 8, 2014 2:59PM GMT
The United States has conducted its first airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in northern Iraq, the Pentagon has announced.
The Pentagon said two FA-18 fighter jets dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on the militants near the Kurdish city of Irbil on Friday.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the terrorists were using artillery to shell Kurdish Peshmerga forces defending Irbil and threatening US personnel in the city.
The decision to carry out airstrikes was taken by US Central Command commander Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, following authority granted by President Barack Obama on Thursday.
'As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIS when they threaten our personnel and facilities," Kirby said in a statement.
Obama, in a statement delivered at the White House late on Thursday, announced that he had authorized the military to conduct targeted airstrikes to prevent the advance of the ISIL, to aid Peshmerga fighters and refugees under siege from the terrorist group.
"I've said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there's a crisis in the world," Obama said.
But he said that when the US is faced with a situation in which innocent people are "facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale," Washington cannot "turn a blind eye."
"We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide," he said. "I've, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there."
Between 10,000 and 40,000 Iraqis have escaped to the mountains after ISIL militants overran the town of Sinjar, the historical home of the Kurdish minority Yazidi that had also served as a refuge for other groups.
The situation is dire as those people risk being slaughtered by terrorists if they choose to return to their villages or stay in the mountains and slowly die of thirst and hunger. About 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, according to the United Nations.
ISIL militants have terrorized entire communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis and others, as they continue their advances in Iraq.
An estimated 100,000 Christians have also been forced to flee from Nineveh Province into the Kurdistan region.
"Most of the displaced are now living in the open and face the threat of death because of scorching heat and lack of water and food," said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, adding, "It is a humanitarian disaster."
Both White House and Pentagon officials have previously indicated that the United States would not take any military action in Iraq until Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki steps down.
Last month, the US sent more than 800 special operations troops to Iraq, including a contingent now stationed in Erbil, within the Kurdistan region.
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