The Iranian regime has sent three Russian-made attack planes to Iraq to help Nouri al-Maliki fight Sunni militants, American and Iraqi officials said on Tuesday.
The delivery of the Su-25 aircraft, which American officials said had already conducted missions in western and northern Iraq, is Iran's latest effort to help Prime Minister al-Maliki, The New York Times reported.
An American official, who declined to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, told the Times that at least one of the planes had been flown by an Iranian pilot.
The deployment of the Su-25s, which the Iraqi Ministry of Defense showed being loaded with bombs and ammunition, came amid reports that an Iranian IRGC pilot had recently been killed near Samarra.
Two American officials said that the pilot, whom the Iranian IRNA news agency identified as Colonel Shoja’at Alamdari Mourjani, had been with an Iranian drone unit and was hit by a mortar attack.
A further US official said that Su-25s had already carried out missions over Ramadi and Falluja in western Iraq and the Baiji refinery in northern Iraq.
The official did not say whether the aircraft dropped any bombs but added that Iran had sent more Revolutionary Guards ground forces and air force personnel to Iraq.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John F Kirby confirmed on Tuesday that Iranian regime had sent war planes, weapons, ammunition and military advisers to Iraq.
The Iraqi tribal forces and human rights organization had reported earlier that civilians were being targeted by government forces using crude weaponry such as barrel bombs.
Human Rights Watch said in a report: "Since early May, government forces have also dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods of Fallujah and surrounding areas as part of an intensified campaign against armed opposition groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS).
"These indiscriminate attacks have caused civilian casualties and forced thousands of residents to flee."