WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States conducted new air strikes on Islamic State targets near Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, the U.S. military’s Central Command said on Sunday.
The strikes, launched by drone aircraft and U.S. fighter jets, were aimed at protecting Kurdish Peshmerga forces as they face off against Islamist militants near Arbil, the site of a U.S. consulate and a U.S.-Iraqi joint military operations center, Central Command said in a statement.
“At approximately 2:15 a.m. EDT, U.S. aircraft struck and destroyed an (Islamic State) armed truck that was firing on Kurdish forces located in the approaches to Arbil,” Central Command said. Four other strikes on armed trucks and a mortar position followed, it said.
The Obama administration last week began a campaign of air strikes and humanitarian air drops in northern Iraq, where militants are threatening religious minorities and encroaching on the Kurdish capital. The strikes are the first Washington has conducted in Iraq since President Barack Obama withdrew the last U.S. troops at the end of 2011.
The Iraqi government on Sunday said the militants, who have dealt harshly with civilians and members of Iraqi security forces since they swept into northern Iraq in June, had killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, burying some alive and taking hundreds of women as slaves.
Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Will Dunham