Iraq crisis: US moves closer to airstrikes on Isis fighters and aid drops to trapped minority groups

Three cargo aircraft are believed to be on their way to the area escorted by fighter jets

us editor

The United States signaled tonight that it is edging closer to ordering military strikes in Iraq to combat the advance of militant fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) while plans were finalised to send Air Force cargo planes to begin humanitarian airdrops of food and other supplies in a bid to save the lives of religious minority Iraqis trapped on a mountain top.

“The US is ready to strike,” a senior US official told ABC News noting that President Barack Obama had met with members of his national security team to discuss the growing threat to the Kurdish city of Erbil where a number of American personnel are based. Protecting American lives was the president’s first concern, sources said.

At the same meeting, President Obama approved the start of the airdrops which will deliver food, water and medical supplies to some 40,000 Iraqis of the religious minority Yazidi sect who have fled into a mountainous area of northern Iraq for fear of being slaughtered by the Sunni Isis forces.

The panicked exodus to the mountains began when Isis jihadist fighters seized the town of Qaraqosh, Iraq's biggest Christian town. Three US cargo aircraft are believed to be on their way to the area escorted by fighter jets.

Any order to carry out air strikes would mark the first time the US has engaged in combat in Iraq since 2011 when President Obama ordered all American troops out of the country. Since the start of the Isis advance across parts of Iraq he has consistently said that airstrikes were on the table as an option. Several hundred special forces advisors are meanwhile already in Iraq helping the Iraqi military and identifying possibly targets for strikes.

If strikes do come the main targets may in fact by Isis forces at the base of the mountain where most of the trapped Yazidi now are. They may also be designed to blunt the advance of Isis fighters towards Erbil, where some of the US advisors are stationed. Isis, which also captured Iraq’s largest dam on Thursday, has declared its intention of creating a sovereign caliphate stretching across Iraqi and Syrian territory.

Earlier reports that the US had already begun airstrikes in the Kurdish region of Iraq were denied by officials at the Pentagon who added that nothing “imminent” was planned. However, it appeared that airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets were perhaps already under way.

The flight of so many Iraqi’s from the Isis advance prompted a new statement of condemnation from the UN Security Council. “The members of the Security Council call on the international community to support the government and people of Iraq and to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering of the population affected by the current conflict in Iraq,” said UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links