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US Planes Strike Islamist Forces in Iraq

F/A-18E fighter jets on the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in this recent U.S. Navy handout photo obtained Aug. 8, 2014.
F/A-18E fighter jets on the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in this recent U.S. Navy handout photo obtained Aug. 8, 2014.
US Planes Strike Islamist Forces in Iraq
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From VOA Learning English, this is In The News.

The United States military bombed Islamic State militants in northern Iraq on Friday. A Defense Department official said U.S. airplanes dropped laser-guided bombs on militant artillery positions near the city of Irbil. The Islamists reportedly had used the artillery against Iraqi Kurdish forces defending the city.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama ordered the U.S. military to carry out "targeted airstrikes" against the militants. The Islamic State was formerly known as ISIL -- the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant.

The president said the military operation is part of a combined effort to support Kurdish forces in the north. Another goal, he said, is to provide humanitarian aid to Iraqi civilians threatened by militant action.

"Today I authorized two operations in Iraq: targeted air strikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death."

Humanitarian Crisis

Mr. Obama spoke hours after U.S. aircraft dropped humanitarian aid on Iraq's Mount Sinjar. Thousands of displaced Iraqis have been living there for days without food, water or shelter. They fled up the mountain to escape from the Islamic State militants.

The refugees are mainly Christians or members of the Yazidi religious group. The militants are Sunni Muslims. They have threatened to kill non-Muslims if they reject Islam’s teachings. They are also carrying out attacks on Muslims who are not Sunnis.

President Obama says the United States should act if it has the ability to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil.
Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil.

“We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide. That’s what we’re doing on that mountain. I’ve therefore authorized targeted air strikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.”

The president ordered air strikes against ISIL vehicles if they moved toward Irbil. He also approved strikes anywhere else in Iraq where the militants threaten American personnel and property.

On Friday, Britain expressed support for Mr. Obama’s approval of air strikes. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon announced that his country would take part in the effort to aid Iraqi refugees.

The air strikes this week represent the biggest use of American military force in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew from the country in 2011. The Iraq War lasted more than eight years.

President Obama said on Thursday that he would not send ground troops back to Iraq. His administration has faced public pressure to avoid new involvement in foreign conflicts.

Militants Push Toward Kurdish Areas

In recent days, Islamic State forces and other militants have made gains against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. The United States has a diplomatic office and military advisors in Irbil. The militants defeated the Kurdish forces in several towns. The group also says it has taken control of a major dam on the Tigris River. This would give militants control of power and water that supplies Baghdad.

Iraq Continues to Suffer from Political Problems

Iraq’s ability to answer the militant offensive has been slowed by a political leadership dispute. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has faced repeated calls to leave office. His group won the most seats in a national election earlier this year, but efforts to form a new government have failed.

And that’s In The News from VOA Learning English.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

For the latest news, visit

This report was written in Special English from stories by VOA reporter Jeff Seldin and reporter Lisa Schlein.


Words in the News

combined adj. form of the verb combine – v. to mix or bring together

humanitarianadj. concerned about human welfare

represent v. to act in the place of someone else; to substitute for; to serve as an example

advisor n. one who helps with information, knowledge or ideas in making a decision

leadership - n. those in a group who show the way, command, or control a group, organization or country

Now it’s your turn to use these words. In the comment section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will give you feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.