The first teams of up to 300 US military advisers have begun their mission in Baghdad to assist the Iraqi army in its fight against Sunni extremists, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Nearly half the 300 special operations soldiers promised by US President Barack Obama are in Baghdad or on the front lines of the fight.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the soldiers would not be "rushing to the rescue" of Iraqi troops and would not be involved in combat.
Kirby added that the US would carry out bombing raids if it was called upon and was already conducting "manned and unmanned" surveillance flights, the AFP news agency reported.
The adviser operation began a day after the US secretary of state, John Kerry, held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq\’s Kurdish region, urging them to stand with the national government in facing the rebel advance.
Kerry apparently failed to gain the assuarnces he needed, with the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, stating that Iraq was facing "a new reality and a new Iraq".
The Kurds have taken control of the city of Kirkuk after fighting with Sunni rebels led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Kirkuk\’s oil deposits could generate more revenue than the Kurds now receive from Baghdad as part of a settlement that has kept them from declaring independence.
The UN on Tuesday said that ISIL\’s lightning advance in the north of Iraq has killed at least 1,075 people.
A UN spokesman said at least 757 civilians were killed in Nineveh, Diyala and Salaheddin provinces from June 5 to June 22, adding the figures were "very much a minimum".
The death toll included some civilians, police and soldiers, who had been summarily executed after laying down arms.
A further 318 people were killed in Baghdad and in southern Iraq.
Source – Agencies