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US flying armed drones over Baghdad – official

Published time: June 27, 2014 20:05
Smoke billows from an area controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) between the Iraqi towns of Naojul and Tuz Khurmatu, both located north of the capital Baghdad, on June 26, 2014. (AFP Photo / Karim Sahib)

Smoke billows from an area controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) between the Iraqi towns of Naojul and Tuz Khurmatu, both located north of the capital Baghdad, on June 26, 2014. (AFP Photo / Karim Sahib)

The US military is flying “a few” armed drones over Iraq’s capital in order to defend diplomats and American troops serving there, a senior US official has confirmed.

"For the last 24 to 48 hours, we've started that," an anonymous official told AFP.

Any decision to attack Sunni extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) would have to be sanctioned by President Barack Obama. Therefore, there are currently no plans to use the drones in airstrikes, officials said.

READ MORE: ISIS supporters vow to avenge any US airstrike in Iraq

The sources called the presence of the drones “force protection.” Last week, Obama said he was ready to take targeted military action if necessary.

Currently, US forces in Iraq are focused on working out the state of the Iraqi military and the Sunni extremists on the battlefield. There are around 500 American military personnel there who are drawn from special operations forces. A fresh batch of 180 military advisors have also just arrived.

In addition to the drones over Baghdad, piloted and unmanned aircraft are carrying out 30-35 surveillance flights a day, some of which include F-18 fighter jets that are flying from the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Gulf.

In this image released by the US Navy, an F/A18C Hornet launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush during flight operatuions in the Arabian Gulf on June 17, 2014. (AFP Photo / Harry Andrew D. Gordon)

US officials also told Reuters on Friday that a joint US-Iraq operations center in Baghdad is set to open next week, and will be staffed by about 90 personnel.

The situation in Iraq has significantly deteriorated throughout the month of June as Sunni militants spearheaded by ISIS push south towards the capital Baghdad, taking major cities in the north of the country like Tikrit and Mosul.

More than 1,000 people have already died at the hands of the Sunni extremists, according to the UN.

Satellite imagery and photographs have confirmed that ISIS has carried out a number of mass executions in the northern city of Tikrit, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch.

IN-DEPTH: ‘ISIS commits mass murder, advertises it’: Iraq executions detailed

The New York-based rights group estimates that between 160 and 190 men were killed in at least two locations near Tikrit between June 11 and June 14.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has demanded that Iraqi officials form an inclusive government if Baghdad wants to gain support from Washington.

The alienation of Sunnis from Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government was part of the initial cause for bitterness among Iraq's Sunni population. Maliki’s Shiite State of Law coalition won the most seats in the April election, but needs the support of Sunnis and Kurds to form a government.

Comments (31)

 

Jeff Sonders 11.07.2014 05:18

"The US military is flying “a few” armed drones over Iraq’s capital..."
Coming soon to your neighborhood.

 

Terry Jobity 28.06.2014 17:54

When a drone crashes and burn in combat,I wonder if the controller gets to get a purple heart .Seem we ain"t got no mo heros.

 

Nursewalt30 28.06.2014 15:42

Although it may sound strange , but deduction tends to support a belief that the Sunni / Shea split -a relatively minor idealistic issue in the grand & basic issue of the groundwork of Islam- has been largely fostered by the zionist , genocidal country , Israel . Mossad mediated car bombs have been tremendously successful in ( 1 ) fomenting hatred between elemental Islamists who share a common master belief , the Quran , and are actually brothers in an identical faith as are various Christian denominations , and ( 2 ) acting as a distraction to divert attention from other issues such as the Palestinian genocide .

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