Mon, Sep 08, 2014 - Page 1 News List

US widens Iraq airstrikes

AFP, BAGHDAD

Washington yesterday said it had carried out airstrikes against extremists in Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland, expanding its month-long air campaign and its involvement in the conflict.

It was a significant escalation for US President Barack Obama, who made his political career opposing the war in Iraq and pulled out US troops in 2011.

Previous strikes since Obama launched the US air campaign on Aug. 8 had been mainly in support of Kurdish forces in the north.

US warplanes bombed Islamic State extremists around a strategic dam on the Euphrates River in an area that they have repeatedly tried to capture from Iraqi government troops and their Sunni militia allies.

“We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi security forces, with support from Sunni tribes,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

“The potential loss of control of the dam or a catastrophic failure of the dam — and the flooding that might result — would have threatened US personnel and facilities in and around Baghdad, as well as thousands of Iraqi citizens,” he added.

It was the first time that Washington had carried out air strikes in support of forces including Sunni Arab militia in the current conflict.

Late last month, it gave limited air support to the army, Shiite militia and Kurdish fighters in breaking an Islamic State siege of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli, north of Baghdad.

Dams have been a key target for the jihadists, and there has been major fighting around Iraq’s largest dam on the Tigris River north of militant-held second city Mosul, which has been a major focus of the US air campaign.

US officials have previously expressed concern about the integrity of both Haditha and Mosul dams, which require constant maintenance as a result of under-investment.

The two dams are important sources of both power and irrigation water for farmers.

Western governments have come under mounting pressure to take strong action against the group, which controls part of Syria as well as significant territory north and west of Baghdad.

The group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has carried out a spate of atrocities in areas under its control, some of which it has videotaped and paraded on the Internet.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top