The United States has started flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect U.S. civilians and military forces in the Iraqi capital, a Pentagon official said Friday, according to The Associated Press (AP).
A handful of Predators armed with Hellfire missiles are being used for the mission, the senior defense official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the new flights on the record.
The drones are there to bolster reconnaissance flights by manned and unmanned aircraft that have been making a few dozen sorties daily over violence-wracked Iraq in recent weeks, the official said.
He stressed that the armed drones are to provide protection of U.S. interests and that President Barack Obama still has not authorized airstrikes against Sunni insurgents who have been taking over territory in other parts of the country.
The Pentagon said Thursday that four teams of Army special forces had arrived in Baghdad, bringing the number of American troops there to 90 out of the 300 promised by Obama.
The troops sent in by the Americans, as Obama clarified in a speech last week, are not combat troops but rather are to operate as “advisers” to the Iraqi forces.
Meanwhile, jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), now in the second week of their lightning offensive that put large portions of Iraq under its control, continued Friday to advance toward Baghdad.
The fighting in Iraq, which threatens to spill over into neighboring countries, has already killed 1,075 in Iraq in June, according to the UN, which noted that the number is an "absolute minimum."
The United Nations’ human rights chief, Navi Pillay, said last week that ISIS members almost certainly committed war crimes by executing hundreds of non-combatant men in Iraq.
Pillay said that corroborated reports showed that soldiers, military conscripts, police and others who had surrendered or been captured had been summarily executed by members of the group.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)