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U.S. Airstrikes Begin on ISIS Militants in Iraq

Two American F/A-18 jet fighters bomb Islamic State artillery outside Irbil
WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) - Two U.S. F/A-18 jet fighters bombed artillery batteries of Sunni Islamic extremists in Iraq on Friday, escalating America's military involvement more than two years after President Barack Obama brought home forces from the country.

Obama authorized "targeted airstrikes" if needed to protect U.S. personnel from fighters with the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The U.S. military also could use airstrikes to prevent what officials warn could be a genocide of minority groups by the Islamic State fighters.

The U.S. aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a "mobile artillery piece" used by ISIS at about 6:45 a.m. ET Friday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said. The commander of U.S. Central Command made the decision to strike under authorization granted him by Obama, Kirby said.

The Islamic State has advanced toward what officials call U.S. interests in Iraq's Kurdish region in the north this week, taking towns from the Kurdish fighting force, known as the Peshmerga.

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