FAYSH KHABUR, Iraq (CNN) – An Iraqi helicopter being used to bring aid to trapped Yazidis on Mount Sinjar crashed Tuesday, state-run Iraqia TV reported.
The military cited “technical failure” in the crash of the MI-17.
The office of the Kurdish regional government’s prime minister said the pilot died.
At least four helicopters were being used to reach the desperate families who fled into the mountains more than a week ago to escape ISIS, the Islamic extremist group that’s carrying out a campaign of terror and ethnic cleansing.
U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq have helped Iraqi troops and Kurdistan’s peshmerga fighters to carry out the missions. Kurdistan is a part of northern Iraq controlled by Kurds.
U.S. strikes ISIS mortar position
On Tuesday, the U.S. military “successfully” conducted a strike against an ISIS mortar position north of Sinjar, the military’s Central Command said. ISIS had been firing on Kurdish forces that were defending Yazidis who were trying to flee the area, Central Command said.
The Obama administration is considering whether to send more military advisers to Iraq, a U.S. official said. The administration also is looking to boost the capabilities of Kurdish forces.
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Consideration is being given to sending as many as 75 more U.S. military personnel, a second U.S. military official told CNN.
Yazidis who escaped trickle back in
Hundreds of Yazidis managed to make it on foot down from Mount Sinjar, northward into Syria, in a region controlled by Kurds. They managed to trek along the border to a crossing point back into Iraq, where a CNN crew saw some arrive Tuesday.
“If you’re running for your life, you’ll do it. You have no other choice,” one elderly man told CNN in describing how he made it with his wife, children and grandchildren.
Aid organizations and representatives of the Kurdistan regional government met some of the arrivals with sandwiches and bottles of water.
A U.N. affiliate had buses transporting some people into town. But most of those arriving will have to figure out where to go on their own — and some told CNN they planned to camp out along the river at the crossing point into Iraq.
U.S. pushes new PM-designate
The United States hopes the newly designated Prime Minister will form a Cabinet quickly and build a united front against ISIS rebels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
The nomination Monday of Haider al-Abadi to replace Nuri al-Maliki as Prime Minister offers al-Abadi the chance to form a new government over the next 30 days before he can formally take office.
“We urge him to form a new Cabinet as urgently as possible, and the U.S. does stand ready to fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi government,” Kerry told reporters at a news conference in Sydney, Australia, emphasizing the threat posed by ISIS.
But the process may be complicated by al-Maliki, who has vowed to hang on to power.
In an indication that al-Maliki wouldn’t go quietly, he appeared Monday with mostly junior members of his party who announced that they would contest the decision to nominate al-Abadi in court.
The new Prime Minister-designate is the deputy speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and a former aide to al-Maliki.
Iraqi President Fuad Masum nominated al-Abadi, a prominent Shiite politician, for the job Monday despite al-Maliki’s pronouncement earlier in the day that he intends to stay in office for a third term.
Kerry reiterated Tuesday that the United States will not send ground troops back into battle in Iraq.
“This is a fight that Iraqis need to join on behalf of Iraq,” he said.