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The United States will send 200 additional soldiers and a number of Apache helicopters to Iraq to assist in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement during an unannounced visit to Baghdad on April 18 to discuss additional military assistance that the United States could provide Iraqi forces.

Carter said the additional U.S. troops will largely be used to advise Iraqi forces closer to the front lines.

The additional 217 soldiers will bring the total U.S. contingent to 4,087.

Carter's visit comes as Iraqi forces push to retake the key city of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest, from IS militants.

The United States is leading an international coalition carrying out strikes against the IS group and also providing training and other assistance to forces fighting the militants in both Iraq and Syria.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP