US attacks Iraq despite mission's end
The spokesman for the US military in Iraq, Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan, said on Tuesday that the air raids had been carried out against militants targeting American troops, AFP reported.
This is the first time the US army has acknowledged using air power to attack targets in Iraq since the American government ended its combat mission in the country in August 31, 2010.
Referring to the first US strike against a group of militants attacking a US base near the Basra airport, Buchanan said, “We had a team of Apaches (helicopters) up at the time. They identified the guy firing the rockets, they engaged and killed him.”
In the second airstrike, US forces killed two militants who planned to explode a roadside bomb on the way of US convoys, he added.
The confirmation may spark tensions between Baghdad and Washington because any unilateral US military attack violates the security pact signed between the two sides last year.
Under the accord, Iraq would oversee security operations in its territory, with the US forces only authorized to play a supportive role.
The comments by the US military spokesman come a day after a series of bombing attacks in different Iraqi cities killed at least 76 people and injured over 180 others.
Bombings and other forms of violence have become an almost daily occurrence in Iraq as the US government has made no secret of its strong desire to extend its military presence in the war-torn country beyond the December 2011 withdrawal date.
About 46,000 American troops are still stationed in Iraq while Baghdad has agreed to hold negotiations with Washington on the future status of American forces in the country.
Aug. 17, 2011