News / Middle East

US Bombs Islamic Extremists in Northern Iraq

US Airstrikes Raise Hopes, Stakes in Iraqi
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Jeff Seldin
August 09, 2014 1:31 AM
The United States is starting to pound selected Islamic State militant group targets around the Iraqi city of Irbil from the air. And defense officials warn they will not hesitate to pull the trigger if the terror group makes any moves that could threaten U.S. personnel or refugees seeking shelter from the group’s brutality. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.

Watch video report by VOA's Jeff Seldin at the Pentagon

Jeff SeldinVOA News

President Barack Obama says America will not be "dragged" into fighting another war in Iraq because there is "no American military solution to the larger crisis there."

Obama said in his weekly address Saturday that he has authorized two operations in Iraq - one to protect Americans in Iraq and another providing humanitarian aid to Iraqi civilians trapped on a mountain by terrorists.

The president said the U.S. "cannot and should not intervene" every time there is a crisis in the world.  However, Obama said when there is a situation like the one on the mountain, where "countless, innocent people are facing a massacre,"  the U.S. cannot "just look away."  

The U.S. military launched two rounds of airstrikes Friday in northwestern Iraq, using drones and fighter jets.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said remotely piloted aircraft Friday struck Islamic State militants near Irbil. He said fighter planes later dropped eight bombs on vehicles and a mortar position in the area.  

He said the U.S. military conducted the strikes to help defend Irbil, where U.S. personnel are assisting the government of Iraq.

Earlier Friday, the U. S. military dropped 250-kilogram [500-pound] laser-guided bombs on an artillery unit that was shelling Kurdish forces defending Irbil.

A senior administration official said the strikes came as the Islamic State extremists began advancing and were beginning to threaten the periphery of the Kurdish city.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the same principle would apply to any threat to U.S. personnel and facilities anywhere in Iraq, including the American embassy in Baghdad.

A U.S. Defense Department photo shows pallets of bottled water are loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq Aug. 8, 2014.A U.S. Defense Department photo shows pallets of bottled water are loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq Aug. 8, 2014.
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A U.S. Defense Department photo shows pallets of bottled water are loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq Aug. 8, 2014.
A U.S. Defense Department photo shows pallets of bottled water are loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq Aug. 8, 2014.

The Pentagon said U.S. military aircraft dropped humanitarian aid for a second straight day Saturday to thousands of mainly Christian and Yazidi refugees. who fled their homes in the face of the Islamic fighters' advance and have taken refuge on the slopes of Sinjar mountain.

Presidential authorization

Obama on Thursday authorized U.S. military planes to carry out "targeted airstrikes" against the Islamic State extremists as well as deliver food to stranded refugees.

On Friday, Obama sent a letter to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, describing the situation

Obama said he had authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq as necessary to protect American personnel in Iraq from the advance of Islamic State militants toward Irbil. Obama said he also authorized the military to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.  

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday Obama had not set any specific end date for the military operations.

Religious minorities targeted

Islamic State extremists have brutally executed ethnic-religious minorities and others who do not agree with their particular brand of Islam.

Speaking from New Delhi, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the United States would continue to support the Iraqi government, as well as Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State militants.

U.S. military aircraft dropped humanitarian aid for a second straight day Saturday to thousands of mainly Christian and Yazidi refugees. who fled their homes in the face of the Islamic fighters' advance and have taken refuge on the slopes of Sinjar mountain.

Friday three aircraft dropped 72 bundles of emergency food and water supplies to the refugees.

In Washington on Friday, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes met at the White House with members of the Yazidi community to discuss the situation in northern Iraq, and he said the United Sates will continue to provide humanitarian support.

US praised

Outside a church in Irbil, some of the thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing the onslaught of the Islamic State gave thanks to the U.S.

"We are happy, we are pleased with the airstrikes, and let them bring back our properties. And let our government find a proper solution for us," said Luay Janan, a Christian fleeing the violence in the region.

The first of the U.S. airstrikes hit early Friday, targeting an artillery position that had been firing on Kurdish forces protecting Irbil, a city where the U.S. has diplomats and military advisers.

Later, U.S. fighter jets taking off from the USS George HW Bush struck an Islamic State convoy and mortar position with laser-guided bombs, while a Predator drone armed with hellfire missiles took out militants at another mortar position.

How much more support Iraq gets, though, may depend on progress with a new, inclusive Iraqi government.

Militant executions

The Associated Press cited an Iraqi human rights ministry spokesman who said late Friday that hundreds of Yazidi women were taken captive by Islamic State militants.

Kamil Amin said the women are below the age of 35 and some are being held in schools in Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. He said the ministry learned of the captives from their families.

Islamic State extremists have brutally executed ethno-religious minorities and others who do not agree with their particular brand of Islam.

"They have threatened Christians to convert to Islam, pay taxes or be killed," said Ido Babe Sheikh, an advisor to former Iraqi President Jalal Talibani.

The group, which has captured significant amounts of military hardware the U.S. had previously supplied Iraqi forces, now controls a large swath of eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. It has declared the area a "caliphate," and is actively recruiting other fighters to join the group.

Irbil, IraqIrbil, Iraq
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Irbil, Iraq
Irbil, Iraq

The bombings represents the widest use of American military force in Iraq since U.S. troops pulled out in 2011, following nearly a decade of war.

Humanitarian aid to refugees

Viyan Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament, welcomed U.S. efforts to help his community but stressed more needs to be done.

"This morning, 15 children died because of not having food and water. What is most urgently needed is the transfer of the Yazidi people from Shingal mountain to a better and safer location, Dakhil told VOA's Kurdish Service.

The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session late Thursday, calling on members to do all they can to support the Iraqi government and ease the suffering. The council said attacks on civilians because of their ethnic background or religion may constitute a crime against humanity.

The international community showed support for the refugees in northern Iraq.

Turkey dispatched five trucks of food, medicine, blankets and other basic goods, a senior official told Reuters.

That country, which lies on the northern borders of both Syria and Iraq, fears ISIL militants' rapid move toward Irbil, Reuters noted. But Turkish officials distanced themselves from any involvement in Friday's airstrikes, saying the U.S. air base in Turkey was not used.

Refugees arrive at Sulaimaniya province, Iraq, Aug. 8, 2014.Refugees arrive at Sulaimaniya province, Iraq, Aug. 8, 2014.
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Refugees arrive at Sulaimaniya province, Iraq, Aug. 8, 2014.
Refugees arrive at Sulaimaniya province, Iraq, Aug. 8, 2014.

The British air force will drop food aid to the refugees within the next few days.

While British officials backed Obama's approval of airstrikes, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said the U.K. would restrict itself to humanitarian aid and to a secondary role for the U.S. military effort.

"Our focus is on assisting that humanitarian mission," Fallon said, "and using our military in support of the Americans in terms of refueling and surveillance to underpin their mission and to add to it with food drops of our own.

"We welcome what the Americans are doing now to, in particular to bring humanitarian relief, and to prevent any further suffering," Fallon added.

Pope Francis has asked Cardinal Fernando Filoni to travel to northern Iraq and "meet with the people most affected" by the militant attacks, Catholic News Service reported Friday.

Filoni was "the only diplomat to remain in Iraq" at the start of the U.S.-led military invasion, the service reported, quoting a Vatican spokesman. The Vatican did not indicate when Filoni was expected to arrive.

Obama spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Friday.

They discussed the urgency of providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq, the risks to the region posed by the Islamic State and other extremist groups, and the importance of supporting an inclusive Iraqi political process.

U.S. restricts flights over Iraq

Also on Friday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration restricted any nonmilitary U.S. aircraft from from flying over Iraq because of "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict," it said in a press release.

Turkish Airlines said it had suspended service to Irbil effective immediately. Other carriers are reportedly ready to follow suit.

VOA's Kokab Farshori in Washington and Lisa Schlein in Geneva contributed to this report.

 


Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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Comments
     
by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, Texas
August 10, 2014 1:45 PM
It's interesting as our fighter aircrafts do bomb the ISIL artellery..... Defeating the Iraqi defense, the ISIL fighters had taken away all these field pieces that our side had supplied to the Iraqi defense. So, it has been the opportunity for us again to go for the air strikes upon our artellery pieces that're now for the ISIL use........All the humanitarian assistances would be provided to the plighted people.....the Yazidi community people and our Christianity in the Kurdish area by our friendly states and ours.


by: ali
August 09, 2014 4:33 PM
These savage people (Islamic State) are exactly like the government of Iran. They are wild like animals like the beginning of Islam. Islam started by occupying Iran, the north of Africa, even they invaded Europe. Islam is a way to build their Emperor, Islamic Emperor to beat women to wear Hi jab and cover their bodies, to stop the songs, happiness, a dark world, only pray till you are dead and you can kill others who want to be happy


by: observer from: lebanon
August 09, 2014 1:22 AM
tell me when america will help the majority genocide in syria? 250000 killed most of them women and childrens,more than 1500000 wonded, 300000 killed in prisons under torture, why us supports iran`s allies like assad and weaken the free syrian army in syria?usa has helped the growth of (isis) when prevented the arrival of weapons to the free syrian army (the opposition), USA HAS SET UP IN IRAQ regim loyal to iran with tinge of sectarianism, which leads the massacres in the region, then USA says that it is fighting extremism, not the USA is one of the creating extremism in the region? know USA want to fight extremism!, you must to fight the source of extremism, iran , also isis and syrian regim and hizbolla in lebanon, USA CREAT ERTREMISM THEN WANT TO FIGHT IT , is this the the USA disposal of the american taxpayer`s money from its own people?

In Response

by: Genesis from: Earth
August 10, 2014 12:49 AM
NEVER.


by: Rebro
August 09, 2014 12:55 AM
Whilst "Not Again" is right in his assessment, action is better than no action and being subjected to a precision guided airstrike is psychologically terrifying, if you are lucky enough to come out unscathed. It is common knowledge that tactical options of this nature are not up for open discussion via social media. The USA
once again with its allies acts decisively - well done.


by: pako from: israel
August 08, 2014 10:54 PM
The Israeli army killed hundreds of infants and children and innocent men and women, and the Israeli army hit the 10.000 babies and children and innocent men and women,! That's because the Israeli soldiers are afraid to fight the terrorists! The soldiers just bomb the planes and tanks and guns and war spnity! The soldiers know where the terrorists but the soldiers are afraid to go and fight them! Then the Israeli soldiers were not cowards to kill infants and children and unarmed men and women and innocent! It doesn't matter to the Israeli soldiers!


by: Not Again from: Canada
August 08, 2014 6:05 PM
A part time occassional strike is totally useles as a strategy to stop and push back IS. Using maned aircraft is a risky undertaking. This appears to be an costly type of undertaking. The fisrt step to undermine and even reverse IS, is to deploy the equivalent of four drone squadrons, and commence the systematic destruction of all mobile equipment the IS uses; an operation tha needs to go 24/7, until such time as IS is prevented from moving armaments and personnel. The fact that reports in the media indicate that IS has taken over the Mosul dam, the major water supply, if true, it is a major disaster.
The use of expensive aircraft, with onboard pilots, is also a bad approach to the reduction of IS strenght; it is better than nothing, but not very effective use of $, or delivery of a few munitions.
Unfortunaely, the US' current UAs program is short of the type of armed UA required, one that has a different weapon, like a gatling gun, so as not use expensive missiles to get rid of armed pickups, or small concentrations of terrorists. In any case the first step, in my view, is to take away the ability of IS to move fighters, equipment, munitions and supplies, anything that moves needs to be cut down/brought to a halt.
The Iraqi gvmt needs to push North on the eastern com lines, past Tikrit to join with Kurdish forces and retake the dam(s) secure water supplies. Following which it needs to move accross the water ways, Westwards outflanking the terrorists, and concurrently push North from Baghdad, step by step on the Western lines of com, as is following/climbing a ladder, all the way up to Mosul+.
A few airstrikes, will not do much, but risk the lives of pilots on their very long runs from the Gulf. UAVs can stay on-station, a better UA is required, one that has a pilot and a weapons sensor operator, to ensure good target classification/selection. Once the IS' mobility sys (trucks/pic-ups, APCs, buses, tractors..) are destroyed, a review of the tactics will be required.

In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
August 09, 2014 8:59 AM
The Number of ISIL fighter is between 2000 to 10000. they are not well trained soldiers and their leader are not trained as a soldiers. they are not so strong . by Us attack its vehicle ,it give a hand to Iraq to defeated them. you have to understand that we are fighting ideology rather than terrorist. The manifesto of Quran is give them guideline to act. US can not go after them all over the world. we have use another means than expose our troops in danger . We have to stop supply them of arm because they use deception and get arm from other countries. If the Arab country can easily buy weapons by the arm dealer and give it to them for the sake of God. the problem is not over.

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 09, 2014 8:54 AM
CRAZY isn't it?.... The US is only bombing (their) artillery and mortars, taken by the Sunni Muslim troops they armed and trained in Iraq, (and), after those US armed and trained Sunni Muslims deserted the Iraq army, (they then joined the (ISIL) al-Baghdadi Sunni Muslim army), and took all the weapons the US was arming and training them with, to fight the Shia Muslim led governments in Iraq and Syria.... (IF ONLY the US hadn't interfered in the politics of Iraq and Syria, (and), IF ONLY the US hadn't armed and trained the Sunni Muslims to fight the Shia Muslim led governments?).


by: Ali baba from: new york
August 08, 2014 1:52 PM
Air strike against ISIL is an excellent idea. by giving helping hand to Iraq and Kurds , ISIL will learn a lesson that their barbaric action will not tolerated and the groups of thugs whom come from all over world to kill and they believe that God is supported them . ISIL is a collection of radical Islam whom they believe that they can control the world . they believe that they are going to restore the Islamic Empire. when some of these thugs return to Us , they should not be allowed to come back even they are American Citizen. the best place to them is mental institution


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 08, 2014 12:14 PM
Bravo, the US Air Force! That was a wonderful performance. Despite the spineless appeal, you have been able to make immediate impact that is likely to scuttle the Islamic State's advancement in the warfront. It has come to the point the US should understand that it does not have to lease, rent or transfer its weapons technology to any force claiming to fight terror. The chickening out of Iraqi military to the ISIS militants is ignominious. I fail to be convinced that a trained army just yielded to no pressure like that. Learning from what is happening in northeast Nigeria, one can safely say there was an arrangement to surrender those weapons to ISIS by the Iraqi army. While it is heart warming to see American action to salvage the situation in Iraq, the absence of an incisive command reminiscent of US presidential orders dused the shine in this action.

The beggarly approach and conditioning - "if U.S. personnel and facilities were imperiled" - removed the bite and Hollywood theatrical excitement in the command that brought this action to bear. You wish it was before, the action goes before the reason or explanation is given. But please don't let’s stop there. If need be, the US should support whatever effort France is trying to request from the UN Security Council to ensure a total removal of ISIS influence in the region. Time is past for the kind of idiotic diplomacy Britain is playing saying it supports US president's determination to air-strike ISIS positions. Britain should come up with concrete input and help defeat terror in its infancy, not wait until another Michael Adebowale kills another soldier on a London street.

With what is happening in Iraq and Syria, the world should understand why it should not be in a hurry to ask Israel to grant the terrorist demands of a free Gaza Strip until there is enough evidence that Hamas renounces violence. Hamas is ISIS pair in the Middle East, and once it is allowed in there, it will combine with Hezbollah to give the world the greatest shock of all time. It started by destroying landmarks in Iraq, it will do worse in the Middle East if allowed inroad. So bravo once again USA. But please don’t wait for it to affect only US interests before you do what is good; ensure this time around that terror is defeated not hibernated, like the premature exit of US army that gave room for this crisis.


by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, Texas
August 08, 2014 12:00 PM
Our president to give his directives to deter the ISIL movement in Iraq is welcome. But president Obama keeps his scope of such air strikes is very very comprehensive......... it's only to protecting our people and our embassy staffs in Iraq. The spread of the ISIL covers a swath of Iraq and
Syria. In context of Syria for our direct strikes, our president is keeping his hands off so far. So, it's certainly pertinent the ISIL has established its authority to stand as a rex state in the politico-geographical map of this world. And, time to come up ahead the ISIL would join the Arab League as a new member; so, the United Nations. ......... If our govt. would've correctly meddled in the Syrian civil war managing the rebel groups, the very existence of the statehood of ISIL would not have been possible. Of course, in the Syrian civil war, Russia and Iran are there. Here, our govt. had necessiated big strategy and bold steps instead of remaining passive. That passivity is the outcome of the ISIL.

In Response

by: Anonymous
August 09, 2014 2:09 PM
Bush,tanx for ur contribution.your American Govt contribute to many problems in the middle east.

In Response

by: Bola from: ilorin,nigeria
August 09, 2014 2:09 PM
Bush,tanx for ur contribution.your American Govt contribute to many problems in the middle east.

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