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US sends Hellfire missiles to Iraq amid surge in violence

Surge of violence in Iraq, including a series of Christmas day bombings, brings renewed push for arms in the region.

By
Kristen Butler
A burned out car is seen among rubble at the site of a bombing in Baghdad, Iraq. (File/UPI Photo)
A burned out car is seen among rubble at the site of a bombing in Baghdad, Iraq. (File/UPI Photo) | License Photo

Dozens of air-to-ground Hellfire missiles have been delivered to Iraq, with more on the way, amid a surge in violence and a series of bomb attacks on Baghdad that killed at least 34 people Christmas day.

Scan Eagle surveillance drones will also be shipped to the country to aid in a campaign against al-Qaeda militants, who have renewed attacks on the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

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Although al-Maliki called on Washington last month to help Iraq deal with the deadliest violence the country has seen in years, US aid will come in the form of equipment and arms, as Washington remains firm in not sending anymore troops to the country.

"We remain committed to supporting the government of Iraq in meeting its defense needs in the face of these challenges," one State Department official told CNN on condition of anonymity.

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Extremists are "seeking to gain control of territory inside the borders of Iraq," said State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki.

The 75 Hellfire missiles arrived in Iraq last week, and more are expected to be delivered.

On Wednesday, two car bombs targeting Christians in southern Baghdad injured at least 100 people and killed 34. One was detonated outside a church just as a Christmas service was letting out and another exploded at a marketplace frequented by Christians.

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The United Nations estimates some 8,000 people have been killed in Iraq since the start of 2013, one of the most violent years since the sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007.

[New York Times] [CNN] [United Nations]

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