A member of the Sahwa, or Awakening Council, a group made up of former Sunni rebels who sided with the US against al-Qaida during Iraq's brutal insurgency, stands guard at the entrance to a market near the scene of a car bombing in Baghdad on Dec. 25. (Ali Al-Saadi/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The United States is sending Iraq dozens of missiles and surveillance drones to help it combat a recent surge in al-Qaida-backed violence, the New York Times reported Thursday.
The weapons include a shipment of 75 Hellfire missiles purchased by Iraq, which Washington delivered to the country last week, the Times reported.
The paper wrote that 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones are expected to be sent by March.
Administration sources told the Times that the delivery comes as the Iraqis had virtually run out of Hellfire missiles.
The shipments are being sent as Baghdad confronts the worst wave of Islamic militant violence in half a decade.
Recent attacks, including the bombing Wednesday of a market near a church in Baghdad, have killed at least 44 people across Iraq, in the worst bloodletting since 2008 when the country was just emerging from a brutal period of sectarian killings.
Militants frequently attack places where crowds gather, including markets, cafes and mosques, in an effort to cause maximum casualties.
Experts say widespread discontent among Iraq's minority Sunni Arab community is a major factor fueling the surge in unrest.
More than 6,700 people have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2013, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.