A series of U.S.-led airstrikes launched Friday targeted what was thought to be a gathering of Islamic State leaders in Iraq, a defense official told Fox News.
The airstrikes, that took place near the Iraqi town of Mosul near the Syrian border, destroyed a vehicle convoy of 10 armed trucks. The official offered no further information and said they could not confirm if Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present.
“This strike demonstrates the pressure we continue to place on the ISIL terrorist network and the group’s increasingly limited freedom to maneuver, communicate and command,” a defense official told Fox News.
The U.S. has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State group militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for weeks as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. Early on, the Islamic State group gained ground across Iraq, as local Iraqi units threw down their weapons and fled or joined the insurgents.
The Islamic State group has proclaimed al-Baghdadi as caliph, or supreme leader, of the vast areas of territory in Iraq and Syria under its control and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.
Al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant believed to be in his early 40s, has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. Since taking the reins of the group in 2010, he has transformed it from a local branch of Al Qaeda into an independent transnational military force, positioning himself as perhaps the pre-eminent figure in the global jihadi community.
Despite the airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, Sunni militants have continued to carrying out deadly bombings targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians.
A suicide truck bomber struck the convoy of a top Iraqi police officer killing eight people, including the ranking official, authorities said Saturday, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of militants from the Islamic State group.
The late Friday attack happened when the suicide attacker drove his bomb-laden truck into the convoy of police Lt. Gen. Faisal Malik al-Zamel, who was inspecting forces in the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, police said. The blast killed al-Zamel and seven other police officers, while wounding 15 people, hospital officials and police officers said.
Meanwhile on Saturday, a series of bombings in and around the capital Baghdad killed at least 43 people, with the deadliest blast hitting the city's sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City, where a car bomb tore through a commercial area, killing 11 people and wounding 21.
There has been an uptick in the number of bombings blamed on Sunni militants in the capital and mostly targeting Shiites, feeding sectarian tensions in the city, as the security forces of the Shiite-led government battle the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group to the west and north of the capital. More recently, the attacks targeted Shiite pilgrims marking Ashoura, the highlight of the sect's religious calendar.
A U.S.-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months, as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. The Islamic State had gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq's army and police divisions to fall into disarray.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, including into Anbar province, where fighting with Islamic State militants has been fierce. The plan could boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorized.
"What is needed from the U.S. is that it should work to bring the Iraqi people together," said Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Iraqi lawmaker. "America, and others, should not become an obstacle that hinder the Iraqis' ambitions for a free Iraqi decision that serves the interests of Iraq"
Besides the Sadr City bombing, at least nine people were killed and another 18 wounded when a car bomb tore through a commercial street lined with restaurants in the southeastern Baghdad neighborhood of al-Amin. Two car bombs also killed eight people and wounded 16 on a commercial street in Baghdad's southwestern Amil neighborhood, police officials said.
A car bomb also detonated on a commercial street in Baghdad's busy central al-Karadah district, killing seven people and wounding at least 21, officials said. In Yousifiya, a town just south of the capital, two people were killed and four wounded in a bombing near a fruit and vegetable market. Another car bomb struck Zafaraniya in southeastern Baghdad, killing six and wounding 13, officials said.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All police and hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
The Associated Press and Fox News' Justin Fishel contributed to this report.