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U.S. Flies Armed Drones Over Iraq

A street vendor carries goods while an Iraqi federal police officer patrols in the town of Taji, about 12 miles (20 kilometer
A street vendor carries goods while an Iraqi federal police officer patrols in the town of Taji, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, June 26, 2014. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over the country's second largest city 10 days ago. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Mideast nations on Wednesday against taking new military action in Iraq that might heighten already-tense sectarian divisions, as reports surfaced that Syria launched airstrikes across the border and Iran has been flying surveillance drones over the neighboring country. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has started flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect U.S. civilians and military forces in the Iraqi capital, a Pentagon official said Friday.

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.

They are 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 militants who have been over-running 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 Americans will advise and assist Iraqi counterterrorism forces.

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Crisis In Iraq