Middle East

US sends missiles and drones to Iraq to fight al-Qaeda

ScanEagle drone
Image caption Washington says ScanEagle drones will be delivered to Iraq next year

The US has delivered dozens of missiles to Iraq to help combat al-Qaeda, US and Iraqi officials have said.

They said that about 75 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles had been sent last week.

A shipment of unmanned ScanEagles surveillance drones is also expected next year.

Iraqi troops have recently launched an operation against al-Qaeda militants in the desert province of Anbar, which borders war-torn Syria.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Thursday confirmed the Hellfire missile delivery and said the drones would be sent soon.

"The United States is committed to supporting Iraq in its fight against terrorism through the Strategic Framework Agreement," Ms Psaki said, referring to the 2008 accord between the two countries.

"The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming delivery of ScanEagles are standard foreign military sales cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to combat this threat," she added.

The missiles are reportedly being used by Iraqi aircraft in Anbar, targeting militant hideouts or vehicles.

Al-Qaeda is believed to have recently regrouped in Anbar, with a number of fighters crossing the porous border between Iraq and Syria.

More than 8,000 people have been killed in attacks across Iraq this year, according to UN estimates.

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