First US Strike in Expanded IS Crises

First US Strike  in Expanded IS CrisesFirst US Strike  in Expanded IS Crises

US officials say the United States took the first step in the planned expanded fight against Islamic State militants Monday, going to the aid of Iraqi security forces south of Baghdad. AP cited the officials as saying that Iraqi forces requested assistance when they came under fire from militants. Officials say the strike represents the newly broadened mission authorized by President Barack Obama to go on the offensive against the Islamic State group wherever it is.

Previous US airstrikes in Iraq were conducted to protect US interests and personnel, assist Iraqi refugees and secure critical infrastructure. Monday’s strike was in direct support of Iraqi forces fighting the militants.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the mission publicly by name.

> Obama Scrutinized in Congress

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's strategy to combat Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria is being scrutinized in Congress, where the expanded military campaign faces skepticism rooted in more than a decade of war.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were scheduled to testify Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the first in a series of high-profile Capitol Hill hearings that will measure the president's ability to rally congressional support.

Obama last week outlined his military plan to destroy the extremists, authorizing US airstrikes inside Syria, stepping up attacks in Iraq and deploying additional American troops.

Obama said he had the authority to order the airstrikes without new congressional approval.

> IS Warns of Attack Against US

In reaction, a supporter of Islamic State militants has warned of attacks on the United States and its allies if they continue to carry out military action against the group that has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, the SITE monitoring service said.

The message on a well-known militant online forum is one of the few responses from supporters of Islamic State to Washington's announcement last week that it was prepared to extend airstrikes against the group into Syria.

The posting on the so-called Minbar Jihadi Media website condemned "intervention in the affairs of other peoples" and said it would trigger an equal response, SITE said late on Monday.

"It will lead to an equal reaction of the same strength in targeting the American depth and also the nations allied to it and in all aspects," the message said in a translation from Arabic, according to SITE, which tracks militant forums.

The United States has stepped up its military response to the hardline group, which has beheaded several Western hostages.

On Sunday Islamic State released a video that it said showed the beheading of a British aid worker.

US President Barack Obama is calling for a coalition of Western and Middle Eastern countries to fight Islamic State.

"I direct a sternly worded warning to each of those nations involved with America, or that are allied with it in their war against the Islamic Caliphate, that their local and international interests will be legitimate targets," the posting by a supporter referred to as "Amir al-Thul" said.

The message called on the public in the United States and its allies to oppose government actions against the group.