US President Barack Obama announced Thursday night he had authorized the US military to launch targeted airstrikes if needed to protect Americans from Islamic militants in northern Iraq, threatening to revive US military involvement in the country's long sectarian war.
He also said the US military had carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid to Iraqi religious minorities under siege by the extremists.
"Today America is coming to help," he said in a late-night statement from the White House.
Obama said the humanitarian airdrops were made at the request of the Iraqi government. The food and water supplies were delivered to the tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped on a mountain without food and water. The Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, fled their homes after the Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.