US official: More airstrikes in Iraq

American fighter jets and drones continued to pound Islamic State militants in Iraq on August 20, and military planners weighed the possibility of sending a small number of additional US troops to Baghdad, US 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 US journalist James Foley being beheaded and underscored President Barack Obama’s vow on Wednesday afternoon to continue attacks against the group despite its threats. According to a senior US 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.

The militants threatened to kill Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who is also being held captive, if the US continued to conduct airstrikes.The officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing operations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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 US troop level in Iraq if more soldiers and Marines are deployed. There are about 748 US forces in Iraq, in addition to the approximately 100 troops that have routinely been assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad.

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