US conducts massive airstrikes against IS militants in Iraq

US conducts massive airstrikes against IS militants in Iraq

In a significant expansion of US air campaign in Iraq, warplanes and drones targetted the Islamic State militants near the country's largest dam, in the first joint operation with Iraqi and Kurdish forces attempting to retake the strategic facility from jihadists.

American fighter jets and drones successfully conducted airstrikes near the Kurdish capital Irbil and the Mosul Dam, targeting militants, the Pentagon said.

These strikes, the heaviest day of attacks since the air campaign began, were carried out yesterday under the authority to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect US personnel and facilities, it said.

"The nine airstrikes conducted thus far destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle," the US Central Command said, adding that all aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

The Islamic State militants captured Mosul Dam, in northern Iraq on the Tigris River, on August seven as part of their offensive that has seized large swaths of the country.

The dam on the Tigris river provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation in Nineveh province.

The recapture of the dam would be one of the most significant achievements of Iraqi forces in fight against the militants.

American officials said the operation, which stretched by hundreds of miles the geographic area where US warplanes are attacking, did not stray beyond the limits President Barack Obama has placed on military action in Iraq.

Obama has repeatedly said such action would be limited to protecting American personnel, preventing "genocide" and providing humanitarian aid.

It is "supportive of both the humanitarian mission and of the need to protect US personnel due to the damage that could be wrought from their control of the dam," said one official.

"We've talked about protecting critical infrastructure before," the Los Angeles Times quoted a US official as saying.

The US airstrikes came amid reports of of a new massacre by the militants against members of the minority Yazidi sect, whose encirclement by Islamic State forces atop remote Mt. Sinjar prompted Obama to begin the airstrikes early this month.

Iraqi officials said militants entered a Yazidi village near the mountain range on Friday and killed scores of men, then took hundreds of women and children captive.

The militants had surrounded the village of Kocho for several days and given the Yazidis, whom they consider heretics, a deadline for converting to Islam, said Mahma Khalil, a Yazidi lawmaker.

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