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Pentagon: U.S. Aircraft Hit Islamic State Artillery In Iraq

August 08, 2014

A Pentagon spokesman says U.S. military aircraft have conducted an air strike directed at Islamic State artillery used against Kurdish forces defending the northern city of Irbil.

Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement that two U.S. warplanes dropped laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Irbil on August 8.

Kirby said the Islamist militants had been using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, where U.S. personnel are located.

President Barack Obama on August 7 authorized air strikes on Iraq to protect U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Irbil and prevent 'a potential act of genocide' against religious minorities.

Obama said U.S. planes had made humanitarian air drops to the members of the Yazidi religious sect, thousands of which have been encircled by militants on Mount Sinjar.

After seizing Iraq's second-largest city Mosul in June, the Islamic State, then known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, advanced across the north, pushing back Kurdish forces and coming within 60 kilometers of Irbil.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians have fled their homes ahead of advancing IS forces.

On August 7, the group said it had seized 17 Iraqi cities, towns and targets -- including a dam and a military base -- over the previous five days, including Qaraqoush, the largest Christian town in Iraq.

Reports say there are an estimated 3,000 Christian refugees in Irbil.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on August 8 that Iraq was facing 'a gut-wrenching humanitarian crisis.'

In a first reaction to the August 8 U.S. air strikes, Iraq's army chief of staff said he expects federal troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces to reclaim large swaths of land after the U.S. air strikes on Islamist positions.

Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said, 'There will be huge changes on the ground in the coming hours.'

Meanwhile, a representative of Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said on August 8 that more determined international action was needed to support the Iraqi government.

Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie said in his Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala that 'solid plans, in cooperation with the Iraqi government, should be put in place to confront and eliminate the terrorists.'

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/iraq/26520923.html

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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