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US Carries Out First Combat Mission with Next-Gen F-35 Jets, Targeting ISIS Assets in Iraq

The United States Air Force conducted its first-ever combat mission using F-35 fighter jets, which struck an Islamic State tunnel network and weapons cache in the Hamrin Mountains in Wadi Ashai, Iraq. The aircrafts were deployed to the Middle East two weeks ago, landing at the al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. The mission comes a day after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in a video for the first time since 2014, when he officially declared the formation the terror group’s “caliphate.” During the latest 18-minute interview, the ISIS chief vowed to take revenge on member-nations of the US-led coalition that recently recaptured the Syrian enclave of Baghouz. Analysts believe the Islamic State still poses a threat as it retains an estimated 20,000-30,000 loyalists located primarily in the Middle East and Africa. Notably, the Israel Defense Forces was the first military in the region to use American-made F-35s for offensive purposes, with reports claiming the jets conducted air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria.