US Drops Food, Ammunition to Embattled Iraqi Troops

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Washington:  The United States showered vital supplies on besieged Iraqi troops, who face mounting pressure from Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

US military planes on Friday and Saturday carried out airdrops of ammunition, food and water to troops in northern Iraq following requests from Baghdad, the US Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement.

"At the request of the Iraqi government, US military forces conducted multiple airdrops in Iraq in the vicinity of Bayji... to resupply Iraqi security forces operating in the area," Centcom said in a statement.

In total, 36 bundles containing 7,328 halal meals, 2,065 gallons of water, and 16,000 pounds of ammunition were dropped.

The airdrops were for Iraqi troops in Bayji town, which remains under Baghdad's control, Centcom said.

"Areas external to Bayji, however, are contested as ISIL continues to conduct operations in the area," the statement said, referring to another name for the Islamic State group.

Previously, US military planes have conducted humanitarian airdrops for refugees and civilians in Iraq.

The United States is supporting Iraqi troops fighting Islamic State jihadists, though the embattled army is facing increasing pressure from a relentless assault from the militants in several hotspots.

The airdrops come after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq as "difficult," particularly in the western Anbar province where Iraqi troops are battling the militants.

"Anbar province is in trouble. We know that," he said.

"This is a difficult effort. It is going to take time. It won't be easy. So, yes, there is a lot of uncertainty in Anbar right now," he said in remarks delivered Friday in Colombia.

The US-led coalition also continued its air assault in Iraq and Syria Friday and Saturday with fresh strikes, the Pentagon said.

Bomber and fighter jets conducted six airstrikes in Syria, including four in the battleground town of Kobane near the Turkish border.

In Iraq, three airstrikes were carried out by attack and fighter jets -- one in Tall Afar in the north and two in Hit in Anbar province -- with the help of Dutch aircraft.

A US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes in Iraq since early August and in Syria since mid-September against Islamic State jihadists.

The Islamic State group has beheaded four Western hostages and has taken over huge swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. 

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