Iraq crisis: US launches first air strike against militants as Kerry warns Isis campaign shows 'all the signs of genocide'

US aircraft have launched an attack on artillery used by militants

John Kerry has declared a campaign by Islamic militants to overrun Iraq has “all the warning signs of genocide” as the US launched its first air strike against Islamic State artillery.

The Pentagon said American aircraft launched an attack on artillery used by militants against Kurdish forces defending the city of Irbil.

Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece, Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

He said the Islamic rebels had been using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces near where US personnel are located.

The move came just hours after Mr Obama authorised limited air strikes in Iraq to slow the rapid advance of Isis fighters, who have seized parts of the country.

Earlier Mr Kerry was quoted by Sky News as telling a conference in Afghanistan: “The stakes for Iraq's future can also not be more clear.

"Isis's campaign of terror against the innocent, including the Christian minority, and its grotesque targeted acts of violence show all the warning signs of genocide.”

In a late night statement, Mr Obama also confirmed US planes have delivered essential supplies to 40,000 Iraqis of the minority Yazidi religion who have fled into a mountainous area in north Iraq for fear of being slaughtered by the ISIS forces.

Many are trapped on Mount Sinjar without food or water by fighters surrounding the mountain.

Militants have also captured Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, where Christians have been fleeing after an ultimatum was issued demanding they pay a special tax, convert, or face death.

Alleged Isis militants in Salaheddin province. Alleged Isis militants in Salaheddin province. During the conference, Mr Obama was quick to stress strikes did not mean troops back on the ground, saying: “As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be drawn into fighting another war in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, David Cameron condemned attacks carried out by Isis as “barbaric”, but stressed he would not be ordering any military intervention in Iraq.

Mr Cameron said he "fully agreed" with the President's view "that we should stand up for the values we believe in", and remains “especially concerned” for the Yazidi community.

"I have tasked officials to urgently establish what more we can do to provide help to those affected, including those in grave need of food, water and shelter in the Sinjar area," he said.

"They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain. The world must help them in their hour of desperate need."

The French President François Hollande also spoke on Friday, saying France was ready to take part in action to end civilian suffering in Iraq.  "We are ready to take responsibility for our part," Mr Hollande said in a statement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea