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U.S. missiles sent to Iraq bolster its fight against al-Qaida

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

BAGHDAD — The United States has sent Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraq's air forces, which is using them in an ongoing campaign against the country's branch of al-Qaida, said officials in Washington and Baghdad on Thursday.

Two Iraqi intelligence officers and a military officer said 75 Hellfires arrived on Dec. 19 and that more will be shipped in the future.

They said the missiles were used by four Iraqi King Air propeller planes during a large-scale military operation in the western desert near the border with Syria.

An intelligence official said the missiles were proved “successful” and ruined four militant camps.

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department, confirmed the missile shipment. The United States will send ScanEagle drones.

“The United States is committed to supporting Iraq in its fight against terrorism through the Strategic Framework Agreement,” she said, referring to a 2008 pact between the two nations.

Al-Qaida is believed to have made use of the war in Syria, which borders Anbar, to rebuild its organization in Iraq. Hard-line fighters are believed to shuttle between the two countries.

According to United Nations estimates, more than 8,000 people have been killed in Iraq since Jan. 1.

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