Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Middle East

Iraq crisis: RAF planes make second aid drop over Mount Sinjar as pressure grows on Cameron to take more action

The UK has also deployed Tornado Jets to northern Iraq

British cargo planes have successfully dropped water and solar lamps to refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar after fleeing advancing Islamic militant forces in northern Iraq.

On Monday night, RAF aircraft dropped a second round of aid to some of the 40,000 trapped - after a previous attempt had to be aborted over fears it could hurt those on the ground.

The “essential supplies” dropped included reusable water purification containers with 15, 900 litres of clean water and solar lamps, which can also be used to charge mobile phones.

A "small number" of Tornado jets have also been sent to the region so they can be used, if needed, to improve the UK's surveillance capability in the region to help the humanitarian effort, amid increasing pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to take more vigorous action in Iraq.

The jets are expected to leave on Tuesday.

It comes as a United Nations human rights expert warned the world must take "all possible measures" to prevent a massacre of minorities in Iraq.

The UN's special rapporteur on minority issues Rita Izsak urged: "All possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours - civilians need to be protected on the ground and escorted out of situations of extreme peril."

Around a quarter of a million Iraqis from religious minorities have already fled their homes in the face of "convert or die" ultimatums from the advancing militants, with women executed or taken as slaves and teenagers sexually assaulted, a UN panel report concluded.

Downing Street has indicated that the Government is also looking at how it can play a role in getting equipment to Kurdish forces so they are better able to counter IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is due to chair another meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra to discuss the next stage of Britain's response to the crisis.

Mr Hammond has already rejected demands that Parliament be recalled to discuss the crisis and said there were no plans for British military involvement.

The developments came amid increased political turbulence in the Iraqi capital where the country's president did not choose incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Maliki as the man to form a new government.

Deputy speaker of parliament Haider Ibadi has been given 30 days to present a new government for MPs' approval, with the West calling for an inclusive administration to help combat IS.

President Barack Obama called al-Abadi's nomination a "promising step forward" and urged "all Iraqi political leaders to work peacefully through the political process."

Additional reporting by agencies