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Government ramps up humanitarian efforts in Iraq

Chinook helicopters may be sent to Iraq to help the rescue mission. Credit: PA Wire

The government has once again ramped up the deployment of military hardware to northern Iraq.

At the latest meeting of the emergency committee Cobra this afternoon, ministers and defence officials are expected to sign off on sending RAF Chinook helicopters to the region.

We understand there will four Chinooks - the largest helicopter assets in the RAF.

They can seat around 30 passengers but can carry many more in an humanitarian rescue.

They are being sent from their main air station at RAF Odiham in Hampshire and they may already be en-route to the UK military base in Cyprus.

The fastest way to get the helicopters to the area is to fly them there - rather than send them in transport planes.

The journey involves four or five refuelling stops.

Like the deployment of RAF Tornados yesterday, the Chinooks are being sent to "pre-position" in case they are required.

Given the scenes ITV News Correspondent John Irvine witnessed yesterday, it would appear helicopters are desperately needed to rescue those on Mount Sinjar who have fled from the brutality of the Islamic State fighters.

The helicopters will also have access to military bases of NATO allies Greece and Turkey which are closer to northern Iraq.

The RAF Tornados left their Norfolk base for Cyprus earlier today.

Both deployments, however, will enable the British government to maintain its contribution remains a humanitarian one - not a combat one.

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