U.S. expands airstrikes against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq

The Washington Post reports: The U.S. military ramped up its campaign against Islamist militants in northern Iraq on Friday, with fighter jets and drones conducting additional airstrikes outside the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, officials said.

The Pentagon said the strikes “successfully eliminated” militant targets and destroyed artillery being used by the Islamic State extremist group to shell Kurdish forces.

The first strikes took place at dawn, Washington time, with two F/A-18 combat jets flying from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a “mobile artillery piece” near Irbil, said Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Islamic State fighters were “using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil where U.S. personnel are located,” he said in a statement. “As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against [Islamic State militants] when they threaten our personnel and facilities.”

Hours later, an MQ-1 Predator drone armed with Hellfire missiles struck an Islamic State mortar position. When “fighters returned to the site moments later, the terrorists were attacked again and successfully eliminated,” Kirby said. [Continue reading…]

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