US President Barack Obama has authorised limited airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants in Iraq to safeguard religious minorities and American servicemen.
The approval comes after several thousands of Iraqi Christians and the Yazidi community residents fled Sinjar after militants overpowered government and Kurdish forces in the area.
In a televised address from White House, Obama said the terrorists have recently made gains toward the city of Erbil, where US has a diplomatic consulate and a military operations centre from where US military personnel advise Iraqi forces.
"To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city," he said.
"We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad."
In addition, Obama authorised US personnel to start operations to help save tens of thousands of Yazidi community residents who are currently stranded on Mount Sinjar due to the ISIS offensive.
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Obama said: "When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help, in this case, a request from the Iraqi government, and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.
"We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That’s what we’re doing on that mountain."
The US aircraft are already conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to the distressed Iraqi civilians.
Obama said the country is also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi forces to more effectively combat ISIS offensive, but a: "American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq."