US and coalition partners bombard Islamic State targets in Tikrit, Iraq
US and coalition warplanes have launched air strikes to help the Iraqi security forces drive out the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants from the Iraqi city of Tikrit.
The operations began after the Iraqi Government requested that the US provide direct support to the Iraqi forces as they strike militants in and around Tikrit.
Combined joint task force operation Inherent Resolve commanding general army lieutenant general James Terry said: "These strikes are intended to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimising collateral damage to infrastructure.
"This will further enable Iraqi forces under Iraqi command to manoeuvre and defeat ISIL in the vicinity of Tikrit."
Pentagon spokesman army colonel Steve Warren also confirmed that the US is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support over Tikrit, and from these operations providing intelligence to Iraqi military.
Supported by local tribes and militias, the Iraqi military launched an offensive on 2 March to recapture Tikrit, which was captured by ISIL in June 2014.
Despite making significant gains against the group, government forces had to halt operations as the militants began securing their positions with homemade bombs, as reported by Agence-France Presse.
The coalition forces have launched more than 300 airstrikes against ISIL targets in support of five separate Iraqi-led operations as well as counter-ISIL operations in Syria, since the start of this month.
US Central Command spokesman colonel Patrick Ryder said: "We have destroyed a significant portion of ISIL's combat capability during this period, to include the elimination of more than 800 ISIL fighters, two tanks, 15 armoured personnel carriers, 11 indirect fire systems and ten anti-aircraft systems from the battlefield."
Coalition forces continue to provide critical training to Iraqi soldiers, with US Central Command noting that training is currently underway for 4,800 troops at four building partner capacity sites in Iraq, with 3,000 trainees joining three weeks ago.
Image: Coalition operations against ISIL militants since 2 March. Photo: courtesy of US Department of Defense.