Special to WorldTribune.com
WASHINGTON — Islamic State of Iraq and Levant has been operating anti-aircraft batteries stolen from the Iraqi military.
Officials said the U.S. military has determined that ISIL deployed an unspecified number of anti-aircraft artillery to counter Western air strikes in northern Iraq.
Western diplomatic sources said ISIL struck at least one U.S. aircraft. They said an F-15 fighter-jet was hit by ISIL fire in late August that damaged the hydraulic system and forced the aircraft to land in neighboring Turkey.
Officials did not identify the anti-aircraft batteries employed by ISIL, according to a report by Middle East Newsline. But they acknowledged that most of the stolen Iraqi military equipment used by ISIL was of U.S. origin, including artillery, armored personnel carriers and combat vehicles.
The officials said ISIL was operating the artillery, captured from northern Iraqi military bases in June 2014.
“They have used these batteries to protect their positions against air strikes,” an official said.
On Sept. 7, the U.S. Air Force attacked ISIL anti-aircraft positions near the Haditha dam in northern Iraq. At least five sorties were reported, which targeted U.S. combat platforms stolen by ISIL.
[Related: Forced landing of U.S. F-15 hit by ISIL fire spotlights Turkey’s neutrality in new war, Sept. 12, 2014]
“The strikes destroyed four ISIL Humvees, four ISIL armed vehicles — two of which were carrying anti-aircraft artillery — one ISIL fighting position, one ISIL command post, and one ISIL defensive fighting position,” U.S. Central Command said.
Centcom did not say whether ISIL, which has been attacking communities near Baghdad, fired the anti-aircraft batteries. The statement said the U.S. fighter-jets “exited the strike areas safely.”