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The USA has started targeting forces of the Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq. Several US air strikes have taken out heavy weaponry that the Islamic State captured from the Iraqi army. President Obama said the new attacks are to protect American residents in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region. IS recently changed its name from ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). The group now controls a quarter of Iraq (including the country's largest dam), and a third of Syria. Mr Obama made it clear that there would be no boots on the ground. He said: "Even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq."
Another reason for the air strikes on the IS is to protect Iraq's Yazidi people and other minority groups. The Yazidis are ethnically Kurdish. Their religion includes elements of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism. The IS told the Yazidis to convert to Islam, pay a tax, or face death. Earlier this week the UN warned of a humanitarian catastrophe with the possibility of ethnic cleansing at the hands of the IS. The IS have reportedly taken hundreds of Yazidi women hostage. Obama said the latest US military action is also, "a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of [Yazidis] who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death".
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