Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters operating from the carrier USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) have struck an artillery piece operated by Iraq and Syria Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) terrorists near Irbil in northern Iraq.
The two fighters used 500-pound laser-guided bombs to destroy the target, which was being used by the terrorists to attack Kurdish military units defending the beleaguered city. The air strike marks the first return of U.S. combat forces to Iraq since the end of the occupation in 2011.
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“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,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located.”
It is not clear which version of the Hornet was involved in the strike. However, according to the Associated Press, the fighters were Navy aircraft based on the carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).
The air strikes come hours after U.S. President Barack Obama authorized U.S. forces to drop humanitarian aid and conduct missions to defend American facilities and personnel anywhere inside Iraq against the ISIL onslaught.
“We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Irbil and our embassy in Baghdad,” Obama said. “We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.”
Meanwhile, U.S. forces are already taking action to lift a siege on the Yezidis religious minority group that has been facing the treat of extermination from the ISIL terrorists. Air Force operated Boeing C-17 strategic transports and two Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules—which were escorted by F/A-18E/F Super Hornets—delivered much need relief supplies to the besieged group. The aircraft delivered 5,300 gallons of drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals.