UK & World News

  • 9 August 2014, 21:47

Obama: Islamist Arms And Equipment Destroyed

US warplanes have succeeded in destroying arms and equipment that could have been used to attack the Kurdish capital Irbil, President Barack Obama has revealed.

The American commander-in-chief said the US is stepping up assistance to Kurdish forces in Iraq to counter the advance of Islamic State (IS) forces in Iraq, during a special address on the lawn of the White House.

Earlier the Pentagon said that two F/A-18 aircraft from a carrier in the Gulf had dropped laser-guided 500-pound bombs on the fighters' artillery.

The advance of IS, previously known as ISIS or ISIL, has forced up to 50,000 people from Iraq's Yazidi community from their homes in the north east into the Sinjar mountains.

Several witnesses said on Saturday that IS have threatened to kill more than 300 Yazidi families unless they convert to Islam and have advanced to within a half an hour of Irbil.

Three US cargo planes escorted by the F/A-18 combat jets dropped 28,224 individually packaged meals and 1,522 gallons of fresh drinking water.

He said the US was now working out, together with its allies, how to create a "safe corridor" that would allow Yazidi people trapped in the mountains to be moved to safety.

The US president, who was about to head to Martha's Vineyard on holiday, said that the IS advance had been faster than expected and that it would take "some time" to solve Iraq's problems.

Among the most urgent needs, he said, was for Iraq to form a stable government that could work out how to tackle the problem of IS for itself.

"I'm not going to give a particular timetable, because as I've said from the start, wherever and whenever US personnel and facilities are threatened, it's my obligation, my responsibility as commander-in-chief, to make sure they are protected," he said.

He repeated comments he made earlier on Saturday, during his weekly address to the nations, that US combat troops were not going to be dragged into fighting another war on the ground.

Two British cargo planes are due to drop supplies including tents, blankets, food, water and solar lanterns "imminently", UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The British minister said that the UK was fully supportive of the US operation.

Mr Hammond said: "We can expect a continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations working in co-ordination with the US and potentially with others as well.

"But more widely we are looking at how to support this group of people and get them off that mountain, how we are going to facilitate their exit from what is a completely unacceptable situation."

The UK's Department for International Development has pledged 8m worth of aid.

As Mr Obama was speaking, it emerged that Islamist militants had clashed with villagers in Lebanon, engaging in a firefight before withdrawing into Syria.

Because of the crisis, all US civilian aircraft and British Airways planes are no longer flying over Iraq. Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have also halted their flights to Irbil until Monday.

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