Middle East

US air strike supports Iraqi troops under attack

Media captionThe BBC's Jim Muir is on the ground with Kurdish troops who are starting a push to retake the plain of Mosul

The US has carried out its first air strike against Islamic State (IS) militants under a new strategy to "degrade and destroy" the group.

US officials said the strike destroyed an IS fighting position near Baghdad, five days after President Obama outlined his new anti-IS strategy.

IS has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq and declared a "caliphate".

Meanwhile, Iraq's new PM saw his two nominations for defence and interior minister rejected by parliament.

The rejections of the two key posts are a setback for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The US has also been building a broad coalition to fight the jihadist group, which is also known as Isil or Isis.

Media captionGabriel Gatehouse reports from the front line of Peshmerga-held territory in northern Iraq

US Central Command said Monday's strike was "the first taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions".

It did not specify the exact location, but Iraqi security spokesman Lt Gen Qassem Atta told AFP news agency it was "an important strike" in Sadr al-Yusufiya, 25km (15 miles) from the capital.

In northern Iraq, Kurdish "peshmerga" forces backed by US surveillance jets and drones have been advancing against IS positions, the BBC's Jim Muir reports.

An attack into the IS-held plain of Mosul, east of the city, began at dawn while on the other side of Mosul, the Kurds have also been pressing towards the town of Zumar, our correspondent says.

Image caption The new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces significant political and sectarian divisions

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has already had most of his cabinet approved, presented his nominees for the unfilled roles of defence and interior minister to parliament on Tuesday.

He nominated Jabir al-Jabri from the Sunni National Forces Alliance for the defence minister and the Shia politician Riyad Gharib as interior minister.

However, both nominees failed to secure enough votes for approval in parliament, which will reconvene again on Thursday to reconsider the posts.

The US also said an IS position near the north-western town of Sinjar had been targeted on Sunday, destroying six IS vehicles.

The strikes are a change in tactics for the US, which had previously carried out strikes in Iraq to protect US interests and personnel, help Iraqi refugees and secure infrastructure.

In total, US fighter planes have conducted more than 160 air strikes across Iraq since August.

How coalition is assembling against IS:
Country Air strikes/surveillance Equipment/personnel Logistical
United States Air strikes on IS positions in Iraq, also authorised in Syria 1,000 advisory staff, aircraft carrier hosting 65 aircraft, including F/A-18 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters and drones Train and equip moderate Syrian rebels
UK Iraq - surveillance only Tornado fighter jets, Hercules transport planes, Chinook helicopters, 1 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft. Arms for Kurds
France Iraq - surveillance only Rafale fighter jets + arms for Kurds
Germany 40 advisory staff + arms for Kurds
Australia 600 advisory staff + up to 10 aircraft - F/A-18 fighters, tankers and support aircraft
Gulf countries Allow use of air bases and air space
Saudi Arabia Allow bases to be used for training of moderate Syrian rebels
Turkey Aid and logistical operations from Nato air base

In a speech last week, President Obama unveiled a four-point plan to defeat IS using air strikes, support for Iraqi troops, anti-terrorism activities and humanitarian aid.

He has said there are no plans to send in US ground troops.