U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that the Islamist militant siege of Iraq's Mount Sinjar had been broken and most of the U.S. military personnel sent to assess the situation would be pulled out of Iraq in the coming days.
Obama, in a briefing to reporters, said he did not expect the United States to have to stage an evacuation of the mountain, where thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority had been trapped by militants, or to continue humanitarian airdrops.
"We broke the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) siege of Mount Sinjar," Obama said. "We helped innocent people reach safety and we helped save many innocent lives. Because of these efforts we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain and it's unlikely that we are going to need to continue humanitarian airdrops on the mountain.
"The majority of the military personnel who conducted the assessment will be leaving Iraq in the coming days," he said.
The United States had sent about 130 U.S. military personnel to Arbil to draw up options ranging from creating a safe corridor for the Yazidis to an airlift to rescue them. A team of fewer than 20 U.S. personnel flew to Mount Sinjar to assess the situation.
Obama said the United States would continue airstrikes to protect U.S. facilities in Iraq and called on Iraqis to unite to defeat Islamist insurgents.
© 2016 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.