1st Batch of US F-16 Jets Delivered to Iraq

1st Batch of US F-16 Jets Delivered to Iraq1st Batch of US F-16 Jets Delivered to Iraq

Four US F-16 warplanes landed in Iraq on Monday, the first batch of a much-delayed delivery aimed at boosting the ailing Iraqi military’s capacity, the defense ministry said.

“Arrival of four F-16s at Balad Air Base,” read a flash on the ministry’s website. Brett McGurk, US President Barack Obama’s deputy envoy for the international coalition against the Islamic State group, also confirmed the jets had arrived.

“After years of preparation and training in the US, Iraqi pilots today landed the first squadron of Iraqi F16s in Iraq,” he said on social media, AFP reported.

The delivery had most recently been delayed over security concerns at Balad, which lies around 70 km north of Baghdad.

IS militants were still battling government forces not far from Balad earlier this year, which was deemed to make it unsafe for the US contractors hired to maintain the jets.

The news of US fighter jets delivery to Iraq came as the United Nations said on Monday at least 15,000 civilians have been killed and twice as many wounded in Iraq’s armed conflict since the start of 2014.

The world body’s mission in Iraq published the figure in the latest “Report on the Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq.”

The UN “recorded at least 44,136 civilian casualties (14,947 killed and 29,189 wounded) as a result of the non-international armed conflict in Iraq.”

The report said the figure, which runs up to the end of April 2015, only accounts for casualties it was able to verify and acknowledged the real toll may be much higher.

The conflict began when IS seized parts of Anbar Province in early 2014. The group then launched a devastating offensive on June 9 last year, taking Iraq’s second city of Mosul and large parts of the country.