US launches attack on Iraq rebels

US launches attack on Iraq rebels

The United States on Friday conducted an airstrike on Islamic State artillery used against Kurdish forces defending the city of Arbil in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Two F/A-18 fighter jets dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Arbil, Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

He said the Islamic rebels had been using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The US has a consulate and, since Iraq’s latest security crisis erupted in June, a joint military operations centre in Arbil.

“The decision to strike was made by the US Central Command commander under authorisation granted him by the commander in chief,” Kirby said. He said the strike occurred at 6:45 am EDT, or 1:45 pm in Arbil (1045 GMT). 

According to military officials, the strike was launched from the US aircraft carrier the USS George H W Bush. In June, the Pentagon ordered the ship to the Gulf in preparation for any possible military action in Iraq.

The strike came only hours after US President Barack Obama authorised airstrikes on Iraq late on Thursday to protect Christians and avert “a potential act of genocide” of tens of thousands of members of the ancient Yazidi sect who have taken refuge on a desert mountain from Islamic State forces.

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