WASHINGTON – The United States and its allies carried out 21 airstrikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria on Saturday, the Command Joint Task Force said in a statement on Sunday.
Iraq also conducted its first air operation against Islamic State using F-16 fighter aircraft, the Pentagon said in a separate statement. Iraq took delivery of four of the fighter jets from the United States in July after much delay, as Iraqi authorities announced the start of a military operation to drive Islamic State forces from Anbar province, west of Baghdad.
Iraq ordered 36 of the $65 million Lockheed Martin Corp planes, but initial deliveries to Balad air base north of Baghdad last year were held up because of security concerns after the militants overran large areas of Iraq.
The United States “will continue to work with the government of Iraq on the delivery of the remaining aircraft as they become available within the framework of the production schedule,” the Pentagon statement added.
The Command Joint Task Force statement said the greatest concentration of latest strikes against Islamic State on Saturday came near Fallujah, Iraq, where staging areas, a building and a bunker were hit in five airstrikes. Twelve other attacks were carried out near six other Iraqi cities, hitting tactical units, fighting positions, weapons and other Islamic State assets, it said.
In Syria, four airstrikes hit construction equipment, a tactical unit and a fighting position, it said.
The U.S.-led coalition has been ramping up its airstrikes on Islamic State forces in recent weeks, although it is still struggling to achieve a breakthrough against the group, especially in Iraq. In late July, Turkey joined the coalition in launching strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria.