Washington D.C (Reuters/NAN)― U.S. war planes struck Iraq on Friday attacking Islamist fighters advancing towards the Kurdish region after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent “genocide”.
This is the first time U.S warplanes are hitting Iraq since American troops pulled out in 2011.
The fighters had advanced to within a half hour’s drive of Arbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region and a hub for U.S. oil companies.
A Pentagon spokesman said two F/A-18 aircraft dropped laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece used by Islamic State fighters to shell Kurdish forces defending Arbil.
Obama had authorised air strikes after tens of thousands of Christians fled for their lives from Islamic State fighters who have crucified and beheaded captives.
In a statement on Friday, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called the attacks on Christians and other religious minority in Iraq “horrific.’’
Welby called on the international community to document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place.
“It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.
“What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’’
The leader of the global Anglican Communion said the events in Iraq called attention to “sorrow yet again’’ and a reminder to the plight of Christians and other religious minorities in conflict situations.
He said with the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, it must not forget that this is part of an “evil pattern’’ against Christians and other minorities around the world.
“Only this week I received an email from a friend in Northern Nigeria about an appalling attack on a village, where Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
“Such horrific stories have become depressingly familiar in countries around the world, including Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic,’’ he said.
The cleric called on the faithful to “continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world.
He added that those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in his prayers at this time.
Welby also expressed support for aid efforts for those who have been displaced and are able to find safety.
“I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history,’’ he said.