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U.S. warplanes join offensive in Tikrit

U.S. warplanes began conducting airstrikes in Tikrit on Wednesday after the Iraqi government requested assistance with a stalled offensive to retake the militant-held city, officials said.

"I can confirm that the government of Iraq has requested coalition support for operations in Tikrit," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said. "Operations are ongoing."

Another defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said American planes were taking part in the strikes.

The United States had hesitated to be drawn into the Iraqi government's drive to take back the Sunni Muslim-dominated city from the extremist group Islamic State because of the involvement of thousands of Shiite militias aided by Iranian advisers.

- Tribune Wash. Bureau

30 militants killed

Pakistani jets killed 30 militants near the Afghan border on Wednesday, an army statement said. The airstrikes in the Khyber tribal region's Tirah Valley pounded several militant hideouts, destroying two arms depots as well, the army said. It's the latest in a days-long army offensive in the area, largely controlled by a militant group called Lashkar-e-Islam, or Army of Islam, which recently announced its support for the Pakistani Taliban. - AP

Big warship debuts

Japan's armed forces took control of their biggest warship since World War II, underscoring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to strengthen the nation's military. The Izumo, a 19,500-ton helicopter carrier, will improve the capacity to deal with submarines, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said after inspecting the ship at a shipyard in the port city of Yokohama. - Bloomberg