US-B-52-bombs-Islamic-State-weapons-depot-in-first-Iraq-mission-since-Gulf-War. QAYYARAH, Iraq, For the first time in more than a decade, a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber targeted ground forces in Iraq this week in a Pentagon strike, military officials said.
The B-52, which arrived in the Persian Gulf region earlier this month, struck targets in the northern town of Qayyarah near Mosul, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a news release Wednesday. The strike destroyed a weapons depot used by militants.
The news was included in a briefing by the Pentagon which addressed ongoing anti-terror efforts in the Middle East as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The B-52 will conduct the “same type of precision strikes that we’ve seen for the last 20 months here in this theater,” Defense spokesman Col. Steve Warren said, speaking in a teleconference from Baghdad.
The military operation is aimed at fighting advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL or pejoratively as Daesh — the Islamic State offshoot in Iraq.
“Last week in the Euphrates River Valley, Iraqi security forces tore [the town of militant-controlled] Hit from ISIL’s grasp and gave it back to the Iraqi people. Hit is liberated,” Warren said of recent developments.
The Boeing-made B-52 Stratofortress, a staple in the U.S. Air Force fleet for more than 50 years, on Monday carried out its first bombing mission in Iraq since the second Gulf War, officials said. The plane was first introduced in 1955 as a Pentagon tool to execute a nuclear strike on the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The bomber was launched from a base in Qatar and is expected to be the first in a series of strikes intended to aid the Iraqi government in toppling extremist forces — particularly in militant-laden Mosul.
“Iraqi security forces continue to consolidate and improve their defensive positions while continuing to increase their combat power,” Warren said.
News of Monday’s strike came on the same day President Barack Obama met with allied leaders of six Gulf nations in Saudi Arabia to reassure U.S. support in the face of continuing aggression from extremists.
“We remain united in our fight to destroy ISIL, or Daesh, which is a threat to all of us,” Obama said.
“The Air Force B-52 allows Operation Inherent Resolve to conduct additional precision strikes against ISIL,” Warren added in a tweet Thursday.
By Doug G. Ware