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Airstrikes undertaken as US re-engages in Iraq

WASHINGTON -- U.S. fighters dropped bombs on Islamic militants in Iraq Friday, the Pentagon said, redeeming U.S. President Barack Obama's promise of military force to counter the advancing militants and confront the threat they pose to Iraqi civilians and Americans.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound (227-kilogram) bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it.

In a televised to the speech Thursday night, Obama had threatened to renew U.S. military involvement in Iraq's long sectarian war. He said that American military planes already had carried out airdrops of food and water, at the request of the Iraqi government, to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities atop a mountain surrounded by militants and desperately in need of supplies.

“America is coming to help,” the president said in a somber speech from the White House.

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.

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, 'There is no one coming to help.' Well, today, America is coming to help,” Obama said. “We're also consulting with other countries -- and the United Nations -- who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.”

The announcement reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war. Obama, who made his remarks in a steady and somber tone, has staked much of his legacy as president on ending what he once called the “dumb war” in Iraq.

Mindful of the public's aversion to another lengthy war, Obama acknowledged that the prospect of a new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans. He vowed anew not to put American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq and said there was no U.S. military solution to the crisis.

“As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” Obama said.

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7. (AFP)

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