Baghdad: Four US F-16 warplanes landed in Iraq today, the first batch of a much-delayed delivery aimed at boosting the ailing Iraqi military’s capacity, the defence ministry said.
“Arrival of four F-16s at Balad air base,” read a flash on the ministry’s website, in an announcement also confirmed to AFP by the prime minister’s office. Brett McGurk, US President Barack Obama’s deputy envoy for the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, also confirmed the jets had arrived.
The delivery had most recently been delayed over security concerns at Balad, which lies about 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Baghdad. IS fighters were still battling government forces not far from Balad earlier this year, which was deemed to make it unsafe for the US contractors hired to maintain the jets.
France and its Rafale fighters are also contributing to the air campaign, which has seen more than 5,200 strikes since early August 2014. An Iraqi Sukhoi jet killed eight civilians in a Baghdad neighbourhood on July 6 when it accidentally dropped a bomb that had become stuck while returning to base.