UK & World News

  • 8 August 2014, 22:48

US Launches Fresh Airstrikes On Iraq Jihadists

The US has launched a second round of airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) targets in northern Iraq.

Rear Admiral John Kirby said a drone strike hit a mortar position near Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

A further strike took place when four F/A-18 fighter jets hit a stationary convoy of seven militants' vehicles and a mortar position.

"On both runs, each aircraft dropped one laser-guided bomb making a total of eight bombs dropped on target neutralising the mortar and convoy," a Pentagon statement said.

The fresh airstrikes came after two F/A-18 planes had earlier dropped 500lb laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery unit near Irbil.

The US said Islamist militants had been using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the city, where US personnel are located.

Iraq's government has also claimed that hundreds of women from the Yazidi religious minority have been taken captive by fighters for IS, formerly known as ISIS.

Officials say the first round of strikes were launched from the USSGeorge HW Bush, which was moved to the Gulf in June to prepare for possible military action in Iraq.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama authorised the first US airstrikes on Iraq since he pulled all troops out in 2011, arguing action was needed to halt the advance of the militants.

But the President, who opposed the 2003 invasion, has vowed there would be no return of ground troops to Iraq.

"As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq," he said.

He vowed to protect American citizens and religious minorities and to prevent a "genocide" by the IS, Sunni fighters who are intent on eradicating non-believers.

In Britain, Defence Secretary Michael Fallonexpressed a willingness to help Americans in their efforts to provide humanitarian support.

In the hours after the airstrikes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned all US civilian flights over Iraq. British Airways also decided to stop flying over the war-torn region.

Other international airlines including Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have halted their flights to Irbil until Monday.

Some 50,000 residents from the ancient Yazidi community have been forced to leave the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar after the militants overwhelmed Kurdish forces.

Many Yazidis are trapped on Mount Sinjar without food or water and are at risk of starvation as the militants surround the base.

Kurdish media has reported that Peshmerga forces have rescued 11,000 of those trapped in the mountains.

On Thursday, the US dropped thousands of gallons of drinking water and 8,000 packaged meals to Yazidis.

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