U.S. fighter jets have begun pounding artillery held by the al Qaeda-inspired militants in northern Iraq with laser guided bombs, a senior Defense Department official said Friday.
“At approximately 6:45 a.m. EDT, the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, a top Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.
“Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil,” Rear Adm. Kirby said. “ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located.”
A small clutch of U.S. advisers have been based in the city during recent weeks, assessing the capability of Kurdish forces to defend the region. No other details were immediately provided.
Friday’s action came roughly 12 hours after President Obama announced that he had authorized airstrikes against Islamist terrorists in Iraq and approved a humanitarian mission to deliver food and other supplies to tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped on mountaintops — moves that represent the most significant re-engagement in Iraq since formal combat operations ended three years ago.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday night, the president said the U.S. cannot sit idly by as innocent Iraqis are slaughtered by the al Qaeda-inspired extremists.