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Pentagon: US aircraft hit Islamic state artillery

Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Arbil.

A popular committee fighter supporting Iraqi government forces campaign against jihadist militants from the Islamic State (IS) guards a position in the town of Taza Khurmatu as fighting on the front line continued on 8 August 2014. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON - US military aircraft conducted an airstrike on Friday against Islamic State artillery used against Kurdish forces defending the city of Arbil, Iraq, near US personnel, a Pentagon spokesperson said.

Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Arbil, Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

He said the Islamic rebels had been using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Arbil where US personnel are located.

"The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief," he said.

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama authorised air strikes on Iraq to protect Christians and avert "a potential act of genocide" of tens of thousands of members of the ancient Yazidi sect who have taken refuge on a desert mountaintop from Islamic State forces.

The United States has also begun dropping relief supplies to the refugees.

Sunni fighters from the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot bent on establishing a caliphate and eradicating unbelievers, have swept through northern Iraq since June.

US troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011 after having ousted ruler Saddam Hussein eight years earlier. Obama insisted the United States would not commit ground troops.