U.S. military announces 14 airstrikes in Iraq following James Foley execution


Smoke rises after airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants near the the city of Irbil in northern Iraq on Aug. 8. Islamic State militants released a video Tuesday showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley and threatened to execute a second journalist, Steve Sotloff, if U.S. airstrikes do not stop. U.S. Central Command said Wednesday it had conducted 14 more.  (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Militants who executed American journalist James Foley in a video released Tuesday implied they would do the same to another war correspondent, Steven Sotloff, if President Obama does not stop U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. That doesn’t appear to have dissuaded the president or senior defense officials: The U.S. military announced 14 more airstrikes in northern Iraq on Wednesday, saying it had hit a variety of militant targets.

The strikes, conducted in support of Iraqi security force operations, were carried out by a mix of fighter jets, drones and “attack aircraft,” according to U.S. Central Command. Defense officials did not specify which kind of aircraft were used, and have said that they will not do so because countries from which they might be flying are sensitive to appearing involved. One possibility is an armed KC-130 plane, which is equipped with Hellfire missiles and other weapons. At least one from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, of Camp Lejeune, N.C., is in the region.

The strikes destroyed or damaged six militant Humvees, three improvised explosive device emplacements, one mortar tube and two armed trucks, CENTCOM officials said. The strikes occurred around the Mosul Dam, which U.S. officials say Iraqi troops seized from the militants in recent days. Since Obama first authorized airstrikes Aug. 7, the United States has now conducted a total of 84 airstrikes across Iraq, including 51 near the dam.

The continuing of the airstrikes mirrors comments Obama made Wednesday in addressing the death of Foley. The United States will be “relentless” against Islamic State militants, the president said. Asked whether the United States might consider suspending its airstrikes, one U.S. official told The Washington Post the “only question is if we do more.”

The militants still control a wide swath of territory across northern and western Iraq as well as territory in Syria. Secretary of State John F. Kerry underscored Obama’s comments in a statement and a series of tweets Wednesday afternoon, saying the Islamic State “must be destroyed” after the United State confirmed the video of Foley’s death was legitimate.

Kerry used a related name for the organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL:

Related on Checkpoint:
Steven Sotloff, journalist held captive by the Islamic State, went missing in Syria

#ISISMediaBlackout goes viral following purported execution of James Foley

On Wednesday, President Obama spoke at a news conference in Martha's Vineyard about American journalist James Foley, who Islamic State militants beheaded in a video. The president said groups like IS have "no place in the 21st century." (AP)
Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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Dan Lamothe · August 20