The United States launched an airstrike near Baghdad on Monday in what defense officials say is the start of an expanded action against Islamic State extremists in Iraq, defense officials say.
The officials tell USA TODAY the strike was in support of Iraqi security forces south of Baghdad who were under attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
The strike was described as the first to provide direct aid for Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic militant group, as previous actions were conducted to protect U.S. personnel and interests. Iraqi forces requested assistance when they came under fire from militants.
President Obama last week announced that a broader campaign would seek to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State group, which sometimes is referred to by the name ISIL or ISIS.
Iraqi forces were being fired on by the Islamic State fighters before the air strike destroyed their position, the official said.
Since air strikes began last month, the attacks had been centered on Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq, near dams at Mosul and Haditha and to protect refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar.
Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday in Paris with leaders from more than 20 countries as the administration tries to round up allies to help battle the extremists.
SOURCE: William M. Welch and Tom Vanden Brook