U.S. President Barack Obama announced Thursday evening that he has authorized limited airstrikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq in an effort to protect American interests and personnel in the region.
In a brief nationally televised speech, Obama added that the U.S. action - taken at the request of the Iraqi government - will also include what he called humanitarian relief in the face of genocide.
Members of the militant group calling itself the Islamic State have driven religious minorities - primarily Christians and Yazidis - from their homes and into the mountains, with the intention of wiping out all "non-believers."
As many as 40,000 men, women and children are holed up on Sinjar Mountain, facing certain death either from starvation if they remain or from the militants waiting below.
Several large American cargo planes with fighter escorts have already dropped food and water to the masses.
"The United States of America cannot turn a blind eye," Obama said. "Today, America is coming to help."
A key component of Obama's presidential bid was to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq.
He now emphasized that America would not be drawn into another war in Iraq and that there would be no boots on the ground.
"As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be drawn into fighting another war in Iraq," Obama said.
The airstrikes would be targeted to protect U.S. personnel based in the Kurdish capital of Erbil, upon which the militants are advancing.
"We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide," Obama said. "I've therefore authorized targeted airstrikes if necessary."
by RTT Staff Writer
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