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US bombs begin to rain down on ISIL positions amid Paris talks

16 September 2014

The US has carried out its first air strike against Islamic State (IS) militants under a new strategy to "degrade and destroy" the group.

US officials said the strike destroyed an IS fighting position near Baghdad, five days after President Obama outlined his new anti-IS strategy.

The IS (also called ISIL or ISIS) has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq and declared a "caliphate".

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said during the Paris summit on the issue that the US won't shut the door on the possibility of working with Iran against common enemy IS, but said the two nations won't coordinate military action with Iran.

Talking to a group of reporters on Monday, Kerry also ruled out coordinating with the Syrian government, although he vaguely described ways to communicate to avoid mistakes should the US and its allies begin bombing the Sunni extremist group's safe haven there.

Neither Iran nor Syria, which together share most of Iraq's borders, were invited to the international conference, which opened as a pair of French reconnaissance jets took off over Iraqi skies.

Meanwhile, Iraq's new PM saw his two nominations for defence and interior minister rejected by parliament. The rejections of the two key posts are a setback for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

US Central Command said Monday's strike was "the first taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions".

It did not specify the exact location, but Iraqi security spokesman Lt Gen Qassem Atta told AFP news agency it was "an important strike" in Sadr al-Yusufiya, 25km from the capital.

In northern Iraq, Kurdish "Peshmerga" forces backed by US surveillance jets and drones have been advancing on IS positions.

An attack into the IS-held plain of Mosul, east of the city, began at dawn while on the other side of Mosul, the Kurds have also been pressing towards the town of Zumar, according to a BBC report.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has already had most of his cabinet approved, presented his nominees for the unfilled roles of defence and interior minister to parliament today.

He nominated Jabir al-Jabri from the Sunni National Forces Alliance for the defence minister and the Shia politician Riyad Gharib as interior minister.

However, both nominees failed to secure enough votes for approval in parliament, which will reconvene on Thursday to reconsider the posts.

The US also said an IS position near the north-western town of Sinjar had been targeted on Sunday, destroying six IS vehicles.

The strikes are a change in tactics for the US, which had previously carried out strikes in Iraq to protect US interests and personnel, help Iraqi refugees and secure infrastructure, unlike the current purely offensive strikes.

In total, US fighter planes have conducted more than 160 air strikes across Iraq since August.

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