US confirms relocation of American officers in Iraq, Kerry wants Obama to ‘take measures’

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The US State Department confirmed reports about the temporary relocation of American contractors associated with military sales to the Iraqi government due to security concerns, according to State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki. “We can confirm that US citizens, under contract to the Government of Iraq, in support of the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in Iraq, are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area,” Psaki said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin Corp had already announced the evacuation of 25 employees from the air base in the northern city of Balad, where they were preparing to receive F-16 fighter jets along with Iraqi servicemen.

The first batch of 36 aircraft was due to be shipped to Iraq this year. The situation in Iraq has deteriorated dramatically over the last days, with militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) seized the major Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit and announced an offensive against Baghdad.

US President Barack Obama said earlier Thursday that he does not “rule anything out” when asked whether air strikes could be an option to help Iraqi authorities combat the jihadists.

Meanwhile Hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children crammed into vehicles have fled their homes, fearing clashes, kidnapping and rape after Islamic militants seized large swaths of northern Iraq.

The families and fleeing soldiers who arrived on Thursday at a checkpoint at the northern frontier of this largely autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq were among some half-million people who have fled their homes since Monday, according to a UN estimate.

Workers were busily extending the Khazer checkpoint in the frontier area known as Kalak, where displaced women hungrily munched on sandwiches distributed by aid workers and soldiers rushed to process people.

The exodus began after fighters from the al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized the northern city of Mosul in a stunning assault on Monday. Since then, the militants have moved southward toward the capital, Baghdad, in the biggest crisis to face Iraq in years.

US Kerry expects Obama to make ‘timely decisions’ on Iraqi crisis

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday he expects President Barack Obama to make “timely decisions” on Iraq due to gravity of the situation, Reuters reports.

Iraq bolsters Baghdad defense capacity as militants advance capital

Iraq has bolstered Baghdad’s defences as militants near the capital pressing on with an assault launched from the country’s second city, Mosul, an interior ministry spokesman said on Friday.

“We (have) put in place a new plan to protect Baghdad,” Brigadier General Saad Maan told AFP. “The plan consists of intensifying the deployment of forces, increasing intelligence efforts and the use of technology such as (observation) balloons and cameras and other equipment,” Maan said.

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