Sun, Aug 10, 2014 - Page 1 News List

US begins Iraq airstrikes

CONTINGENCY:President Obama said operations would continue against the Islamic State as long as they were necessary to protect US diplomats

AP and AFP, ERBIL, Iraq, and WASHINGTON

US Air Force personnel pack meals on pallets at a US base in Iraq on Thursday ahead of a humanitarian airdrop mission.

Photo: AFP / US AIR FORCE / Staff Sergeant Vernon Young Jr

The US launched its first airstrikes in northern Iraq against militants of the Islamic State group on Friday amid a worsening humanitarian crisis that has seen the extremists take captive hundreds of women from a religious minority, an Iraqi official said, while thousands of other civilians fled in fear.

Many US allies backed the intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority whose plight — trapped on a mountaintop by the militants — prompted the US to airdrop crates of food and water for them.

US planes made a second airdrop of food and water early yesterday for those trapped in the Sinjar mountains, Pentagon spokesman US Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

Escorted by two US Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees, including more than 28,000 meals and more than 5,700 liters of water, said Kirby, who spoke from New Delhi during a trip with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The Islamic State’s “campaign of terror against the innocent, including the Yazidi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said. “For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it.”

Underscoring the sense of alarm, a spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry said hundreds of Yazidi women had been seized by the militants.

Citing reports from the women’s families, Kamil Amin said some of the women were being held in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told reporters. “We think that these women are going to be used in demeaning ways by those terrorists to satisfy their animalistic urges in a way that contradicts all ... human and Islamic values.”

The US military used two F/A-18 jets to drop bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it. The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region and home to a US consulate and about three dozen US military trainers.

Later on Friday, the US launched a second round of airstrikes near Erbil, US officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said unmanned aircraft hit a mortar, and four US Navy F/A-18 fighters destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama yesterday vowed to continue airstrikes against Iraqi jihadists if needed to protect US diplomats and military advisers.

Speaking in his weekly address, Obama said that he had authorized the strikes in Iraq to protect US personnel serving in the northern Kurdish city.

“And, if necessary, that’s what we will continue to do,” he said.

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