US troops return to Iraq to battle Islamic State — report
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US troops return to Iraq to battle Islamic State — report

160-strong force lands in Anbar, Asharq Al-Awsat says, to join campaign to push IS out of province’s capital Ramadi

Iraqi security forces and paramilitaries deploy during an operation aimed at cutting off Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Anbar province before a major offensive to retake the city of Ramadi, May 26, 2015. (AFP/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)
Iraqi security forces and paramilitaries deploy during an operation aimed at cutting off Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Anbar province before a major offensive to retake the city of Ramadi, May 26, 2015. (AFP/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

A force of 160 American army soldiers have landed in Iraq as part of ongoing efforts by a US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State that has captured swathes of the country and its war-torn Syrian neighbor, the Arabic-language media outlet Asharq Al-Awsat said.

Iraqi security sources told the pan-Arab paper that the force landed at a military base in the Anbar province, from where Iraq is running its offensive against IS, Israel’s Walla news reported Saturday.

The base is already hosting hundreds of American Army personnel who are training the local forces, but this is the first time that a US fighting force has arrived in Anbar, the report said. The soldiers are expected to take part in an operation to oust the Islamic State from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and some 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

IS overran Ramadi in mid-May in a major setback for Iraqi forces, which had held out against militants in parts of the city for well over a year.

Coalition forces bombed a key jihadist command and supply hub in the Ramadi area last week. A video of the strike on a football stadium showed a massive secondary explosion at the site.

“The stadium was a key (IS) command and supply hub in the Ramadi region and was being used to store large amounts of homemade explosives, weapons and ammunition,” the coalition said in a statement.

“Destroying this hub will significantly disrupt (IS’s) ability to conduct operations and resupply their fighters in Ramadi.”

The group seized swaths of Iraqi territory in a June 2014 offensive, and coalition forces are carrying out daily air strikes against the jihadists to assist Iraqi forces, which have made little progress on the ground in recent weeks.

AFP contributed to this report.

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