Wed, Jan 08, 2014 - Page 6 News List

US speeding up weapons deliveries to Iraq

FLARE-UP:US Vice President Joe Biden on Monday telephoned Iraq’s prime minister and legislative speaker following the fall of two Anbar Province cities to al-Qaeda

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US said Monday it would speed up its deliveries of missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq as the Baghdad government battles a resurgence of al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Meanwhile, the White House dismissed claims that the fighting, which has seen militants retake the city of Fallujah, was a result of US President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US troops.

US Vice President Joe Biden spoke by telephone with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday, and “expressed concern for those Iraqis who are suffering at the hands of terrorists,” a statement said. “Maliki affirmed the importance of working closely with Iraq’s Sunni leaders and communities to isolate extremists.”

Biden also spoke with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi.

He “praised the recent cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and Sunni local, tribal, and national leaders in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant currently unfolding in Anbar Province,” the White House said.

“Nujaifi reaffirmed his commitment to Iraq’s fight against terrorism,” it added.

The Pentagon said that Washington would accelerate delivery of 100 more Hellfire missiles, which were due to be sent to Iraq in the next few months.

Colonel Steven Warren said an additional 10 ScanEagle surveillance drones would also be delivered.

Hellfire missiles, originally designed as an anti-tank weapon, can be fired from helicopters and warplanes, while ScanEagle drones are a low-cost 3m aircraft capable of flying for 24 hours.

The deliveries correspond to contracts already signed with Iraq. Some 75 Hellfire missiles were delivered to Baghdad in the middle of last month, US officials said.

Warren said Washington was working with Iraq to develop a “holistic strategy to isolate al-Qaeda-affiliated groups so the tribes working with the security forces can drive them out of the populated areas.”

However, he reiterated previous statements from US Secretary of State John Kerry that no American forces would return to Iraq to assist in military operations.

Meanwhile, officials say at least four people were killed yesterday as government troops continue their siege of two cities overrun by al-Qaeda in Anbar.

Major Raid Emad Rasheed says a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in Kirkuk, killing two people there and wounding 55, some critically.

A police officer says a roadside bomb struck an army patrol southeast of Baghdad, in the Madain area, killing one soldier and wounding another.

The officer says another bomb hit a patrol of pro-government, Sunni militiamen in Baghdad’s southeastern suburb of Jisr Diyala, killing one fighter and wounding four.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to talk to media.

Additional reporting by AP

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