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U.S. conducts airstrikes on Islamic State in Tikrit

By Danielle Haynes

TIKRIT, Iraq, March 25 (UPI) -- U.S. and coalition forces launched their first airstrike against the Islamic State in Tikrit on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced.

The move came one day after the U.S.-led coalition began surveillance flights over the city to provide intelligence information to Iraqi forces.

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The airstrikes came at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in order to assist Iraqi forces attempting to expel IS -- which is also identified by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL -- from the city, a news release by the Department of Defense said.

"These strikes are intended to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimizing collateral damage to infrastructure," said Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, task force commanding general. "This will further enable Iraqi forces under Iraqi command to maneuver and defeat ISIL in the vicinity of Tikrit."

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"At the request of the government of Iraq, coalition forces are providing support to Iraqi security forces as they combat ISIL in and around Tikrit," said Col. Patrick Ryder, a U.S. Central Command spokesman. "To be clear, the coalition is only coordinating with the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces; we do not coordinate our operations in any way with Iran or Iranian-backed militias."

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Retaking Tikrit, which is on the road between Baghdad and Mosul, Iraq's largest cities, is crucial if it is to be used as a supply link for any upcoming assault on Mosul, also in IS hands.

IS militants first took action to take parts of Tikrit in June.

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