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US mulls sending 300 troops to Iraq as strikes on IS continue

Iraq federal soldiers, Kurdish forces¸ Shiite militia and Sunni Arab tribes continue battling IS but remain unable to clinch decisive victory
US President Barack Obama at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts August 20, 2014 (AFP)

The United States is weighing sending up to 300 troops to Iraq to reinforce security at American diplomatic installations, a senior US official said Wednesday.

"We are considering sending fewer than 300," the official said, saying it was in response to a State Department request for additional security personnel.

The request comes amid an intensifying US air campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and follows the murder by of US journalist James Foley.

IS has threatened to kill a second hostage US journalist, Steven Sotloff, unless US President Barack Obama changes course.

The US military earlier announced it has launched 14 air strikes against IS targets near the Mosul dam since the video of Foley's beheading surfaced Tuesday on the Internet.

The added troops would increase the number of American military personnel in Iraq to around 1,150.

Since Tuesday, US drones and fighter jets destroyed or damaged six IS Humvees, three sites for improvised explosive devices, one mortar tube and two armed trucks, US Central Command said.

The latest air raids brought to 84 the number conducted since August 8. Of those, 51 were in support of Iraqi forces near Mosul dam, now under the control of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.

The command said the latest strikes served to "further expand" Iraqi and Kurdish control of the area.

"These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense force operations, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, US personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts," it added.

Obama on Wednesday demanded the world take action against the "cancer" of IS in Iraq.

Obama said: "When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done."

"Jim Foley's life stands in stark contrast to his killers," he said, branding the militants genocidal murderers who target civilians and subject women and children to "torture and rape and slavery."

"Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents," he said.

"No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day," he declared.

"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless ... From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread."

US intelligence believes the video is genuine, and the British government held a crisis meeting to launch an investigation because Foley's executioner spoke English with a London accent.

The United Nations and Europe's top powers condemned the killing, and France warned the world faces the "most serious international situation" since 2001, the year of the September 11 attacks.

In a significant shift from its usual policy, Germany said it was ready to send weapons to support Iraqi Kurds against IS, while France vowed to hold a conference on the security of the region.

This month Obama reacted by ordering US warplanes to counter threats to US personnel in the Kurdish regional capital Arbil.

He has insisted the scope of the strikes would remain limited but some Iraqi officials and observers have argued only foreign intervention could turn the tide on militants expansion in Iraq.

Shiite militia, federal soldiers, Kurdish troops and Sunni Arab tribes have been battling IS for weeks in some areas but have been unable to clinch a decisive victory.