The United States is sending Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and ScanEagle surveillance drones to Iraq to help in the ongoing fight of the government forces against the growing influence of the affiliates of Al Qaeda in the country, according to the State Department as confirmed by CNN on Thursday.
Delivery of Hellfire missiles
“The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming delivery of ScanEagles are standard FMS (foreign military sales) cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to combat this threat,” according to an official from the State Department who preferred to remain anonymous.
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The New York Times first reported that the United States had delivered the 75 Hellfire missiles purchased by Iraq.
Iraq to receive ScanEagle Drones
According to two Iraqi intelligence officials and a military officer, the 75 Hellfire missiles arrived on December 19, and they are expecting more shipments in the future. Iraq is scheduled to receive 10 ScanEagle Drones early next year. The officials said four Iraqi aircraft already used the missiles during a large scale military operation near the border of Syria in the western desert and destroyed four militant camps.
Jennifer Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department said, “The United States is committed to supporting Iraq in its fight against terrorism through the Strategic Framework Agreement.”
Psaki previously noted that the terrorists were “seeking to gain control of territory inside the borders of Iraq.” Since the departure of the United States forces in the country two years ago, the Iraqi government is facing security challenges due to increasing violence in different parts of the country.
Violence on Christmas day in Iraq
Two car explosions that targeted and killed Christians left more than 100 people wounded in southern Baghdad on Christmas day. The bombings occurred outside a church after a Christmas service and in an outdoor market where many Christians go shopping. According to Iraq’s Interior Ministry, 38 people died and 70 others were injured in the bombings.
U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemned the attacks in a statement. “The Christian community in Iraq has suffered deliberate and senseless targeting by terrorists for many years, as have many other innocent Iraqis. The United States abhors all such attacks and is committed to its partnership with the government of Iraq to combat the scourge of terrorism,” according to the embassy.
The United Nations estimates that more than 8,000 people have been killed in sectarian violence this year in Iraq.