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US starts air strikes on Islamic State positions in Iraq
Friday August 8, 2014 7:08 PM, Agencies

U.S. aircrafts launched strikes against extremist positions in northern Iraq after artillery fire near U.S. personnel, Xinhua reported the Pentagon as saying Friday.

[Smoke rises during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants in the Hamrin Mountains in Diyala. (File photo: Reuters)]

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, writing on Twitter, said that U.S. forces struck after artillery fire against Kurdish forces defending the key city of Arbil, according to AFP.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized control of Iraq’s largest dam north of their hub of Mosul, giving them control over the supply of water and electricity in a vast area, officials said on Friday.

“Mosul dam has been in insurgent hands since last night,” said Holgard Hekmat, spokesman for the Kurdish peshmerga force that previously guarded the key infrastructure. The capture was confirmed by the head of the provincial council of Nineveh, according to Agence France-Presse.

US strikes came hours after US President Barack Obama authorized targeted air strikes and air drops for Iraq's aid amid a humanitarian crisis.

Speaking at the White House Thursday, Obama said he authorized air strikes "if necessary" against Islamic militants, who have advanced into the Kurdish region of Iraq and seized the country's largest dam Thursday, reported Xinhua.

Obama said he had directed US forces to conduct targeted air strikes on the militants if they threaten the American citizens and military personnel there.

He said he authorized the military at the request of the Iraqi government to help provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi citizens, many of them religious minorities, who are trapped on a mountain top surrounded by Islamic militants.

The president also announced that the US launched air drops of food and water on the mountain top in northern Iraq Thursday.

"When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I think the United States cannot turn a blind eye," Obama said.

However, he also declared that he had run for the presidency in part to end America's involvement in the Iraqi war, repeating his promise that the United States would not send ground troops back to Iraq.

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