U.S. conducts air strikes to help Iraq retake Tikrit
Other countries in the U.S.-led coalition were expected to take part in the air strikes, officials said
U.S. aircraft on Wednesday launched bombing raids to support Iraqi forces to recapture Tikrit from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), after Baghdad issued a request for air power, U.S. officials said, according to Agence France Presse.
“I can confirm that the government of Iraq has requested coalition support for operations in Tikrit,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren said in a statement.
“Operations are ongoing,” Warren said.
An Associated Press correspondent in Tikrit reported hearing warplanes overhead late Wednesday, followed by multiple explosions.
U.S. airstrikes in Tikrit raise highly sensitive questions about participating in an Iraqi campaign that has been spearheaded by Iraqi Shiite militias trained and equipped by Iran, an avowed U.S. adversary.
Other countries in the U.S.-led coalition were expected to take part in the air strikes, officials said.
Although the United States and its allies have conducted air strikes elsewhere in Iraq, the Baghdad government pointedly had not previously asked for American help for the Tikrit offensive.
Over the weekend, U.S. aircraft – including drones – began carrying out surveillance flights to support the Tikrit operation.
The bid to retake Tikrit, which involves thousands of Iraqi soldiers, police and forces known as Popular Mobilisation units, which are dominated by Shiite militias, began on March 2.
[With AFP and AP]
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