U.S. Apache helicopters targeted ISIS forces in Iraq for the first time, carrying out a strike in support of local forces trying to retake the city of Mosul.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters traveling with him to a meeting of NATO defense ministers that the strike happened during the past 24 hours, The Associated Press
Two Apache helicopters were involved in the operation, but only one fired at a vehicle on the ground, said Reuters
The helicopter fired a hellfire missile at an ISIS armored vehicle near the Iraqi city of Qayyarah, Fox News
reported. The number of insurgent fighters killed in the attack, if any, wasn't released.
Qayyarah is about 50 miles south of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Mosul has been an ISIS stronghold since 2014 and officials have said Apache helicopters would be used in the effort to retake Mosul, but not elsewhere, Fox noted.
The U.S. has been offering to use its Apache helicopters to support Iraqi forces since early December, Agence France‑Presse
reported. Those offers have been declined until now because "Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi didn't want to anger Shiite militias, who oppose the ramping up of US combat operations in Iraq," AFP said.
"The government of Iraq approved the use of Apaches in support of ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) operations," Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood said, according to AFP. "The strike was vetted and approved through the same process the (US-led) coalition uses for all strikes."
Carter offered the use of the Apache helicopters in April, when he traveled to Baghdad, Stars and Stripes
reported. At that time, U.S. and Iraqi officials agreed to bring eight Apache helicopters into the effort to retake Mosul.
Monday's attack took place over open terrain, Stars and Stripes reported, noting that helicopters haven't been used in dense urban areas.
Coalition warplanes and drones have been used in support of local forces in in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, AFP said.
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