US conducts airstrikes against IS near Mosul Dam

World Today

Mideast Iraq Smoke rises during airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants at the Mosul Dam outside Mosul, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Boosted by two days of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces on Monday wrested back control of the country’s largest dam from Islamic militants, a military spokesman in Baghdad said, as fighting was reported to be underway for the rest of the strategic facility. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

American fighter jets and drones continued to pound Islamic State militants in Iraq on Wednesday, and military planners weighed the possibility of sending a small number of additional U.S. troops to Baghdad, U.S. officials said, even as the insurgents threatened to kill a second American captive in retribution for any continued attacks.

The airstrikes came in the hours after militants released a gruesome video Tuesday showing U.S. journalist James Foley being beheaded and underscored President Barack Obama’s vow Wednesday afternoon to continue attacks against the group despite its threats.

According to a senior U.S. official, the number of additional troops currently under discussion would be fewer than 300, but there has been no final decision yet by Pentagon leaders. Officials said that the forces were requested by the State Department and, if approved, would mainly provide extra security around Baghdad.

The 14 latest airstrikes were in the area of the Mosul Dam and were aimed at helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces create a buffer zone at the key facility. The strikes, which now total 84 since operations began, have helped Iraqi and Kurdish troops reclaim the dam from the insurgents.  Of those 84 strikes, 51 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.

The strikes destroyed or damaged six ISIL Humvees, three IED emplacements, one mortar tube, and two armed trucks. All aircraft exited the strike area safely.

The militants threatened to kill Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who is also being held captive, if the U.S. continued to conduct airstrikes.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing operations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mideast Iraq Water

FILE – This Oct. 31, 2007 file photo, shows a general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul and declared a self-styled Islamic Caliphate straddling the Iraq-Syria border, has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011. Experts say the strategy for capturing the dams is twofold. First, seizing dams and large reservoirs can be used as a military tactic. Flooding the terrain slows any possible encounters with military tanks and foot soldiers, giving the militants freedom of movement, if briefly. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed, File)

It was not clear Wednesday if Obama would have to adjust his recent notifications to Congress under the War Powers Act to accommodate the higher U.S. troop level in Iraq if more soldiers and Marines are deployed.

There are about 748 U.S. forces in Iraq, in addition to the approximately 100 troops that have routinely been assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad. Under the current war powers resolutions sent to Congress, Obama authorized up to 775 U.S. troops for security assistance, assessment teams, and advisers at two joint operations centers in Baghdad and Irbil.

Foley, a 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing in northern Syria while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. Officials have said the video appears authentic.

Released on websites Tuesday, the video shows a man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling in the desert, next to a black-clad militant with a knife to his throat. Foley’s name appears in both English and Arabic graphics on screen.

After the captive makes a statement, the masked man is shown apparently beginning to cut at the neck of the captive. The next shot appears to show the captive lying dead on the ground, his head on his body.

At the end of the video, a second man — identified as Sotloff — is shown and the militant warns that he could be next captive killed. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine.

Report complied with information from The Associated Press and the U.S. Defense Department.