Hundreds of British troops going to Iraq, official says

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(CNN) — The United Kingdom will deploy hundreds of troops to Iraq in the coming year to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces — the country’s latest contribution to the fight against ISIS — British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told The Telegraph newspaper.

The British have participated in a multinational airstrike campaign against ISIS in Iraq for months, but sending troops to train Iraqis and Kurds increases Britain’s military involvement there.

The United Kingdom hasn’t had a significant ground troop presence in Iraq since 2011, the same year the United States withdrew its forces following a 2003 invasion to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

British troops will begin training Iraqi and Kurdish forces in January, Fallon told the Telegraph for a story published Saturday.

The number of troops hasn’t been finalized, “but we are talking very low hundreds,” Fallon told the Telegraph.

“Our role now, apart from the airstrikes, is increasingly going to be on training,” Fallon said.

The British Ministry of Defense told CNN on Saturday that Fallon’s comments reported by the Telegraph were accurate, and that details about he deployment still were being determined.

The United States has hundreds of troops already in Iraq, training, advising and assisting Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In November, President Barack Obama said he was planning to send up to an additional 1,500 troops for that purpose.

In October, the United States had more than 1,400 troops in Iraq, in addition to hundreds more aboard ships and in nearby countries who were helping to carry out airstrikes in Iraq.

The Iraqi military and Kurdish militias have been battling ISIS, the militant group that calls itself the “Islamic State.” The Sunni Muslim extremist group captured portions of Syria and Iraq this year in its bid to establish what it says is an independent Islamic nation.

ISIS shoots down Iraqi helicopter, killing 2, official says

ISIS fighters shot down an Iraqi army helicopter in the north-central Iraqi city of Samarra this week, killing two pilots, a military command officer told CNN on Saturday.

The incident happened Friday afternoon in southern Samarra, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north-northwest of Baghdad. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the news media.

The helicopter attack came two days after a suicide truck bombing killed at least nine people, including Iraqi soldiers, outside a military base in Samarra.

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