A small team of U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces landed briefly Wednesday on the mountaintop where Iraqi civilians have been stranded while fleeing ISIS militants, The Guardian reports.
The move, involving less than 20 U.S. personnel, was an assessment of the area for a possible rescue operation to come, reported the Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum, citing Pentagon officials.
The rescue operation may commence around the end of next week and would likely take several days, according to The London Times.
The assessment team flew in on V-22 Osprey helicopters, and left a short time later, The Guardian reported. A British official also told the paper that British SAS soldiers were in the area to “gather intelligence.”
The Times has more:
Two possible options presented by the Pentagon involve either a helicopter rescue mission in which US military personnel would have to be stationed in the mountains to ensure the refugees’ safe passage to the nearest airfield, or large numbers of ground troops protecting a land evacuation from the mountains through an enforced humanitarian corridor.
Atop Mt. Sinjar in Iraq’s north, members of the Yazidi religious minority took refuge last week to escape militants who were threatening “genocide.” As many as 40,000 civilians have been trapped on Sinjar, with some dying of starvation and dehydration.
Last week, President Obama announced that “America is coming to help” the Yazidis, and directed the Pentagon to air drop humanitarian aid and engage militants with targeted air strikes if U.S. personnel became threatened.
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