Updated 6:13 p.m. E.T.
The Pentagon denied reports Thursday that it had begun conducting airstrikes on Sunni targets in Iraq or humanitarian air drops to thousands of members of a persecuted religious minority under siege from militants in the northwest of the country.
The New York Times, citing Kurdish officials, reported that U.S. forces bombed at least two targets in northern Iraq. The McClatchy news agency also reported aerial bombings outside the town of Kalak in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, stating that Kurdish media had described jets as American bombers.
But the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said on Twitter that the press reports were “completely false.” The Pentagon also denied a report, by ABC News, that the U.S. had begun humanitarian air drops to people in need in northern Iraq.
Earlier on Thursday, a defense official told TIME that the Iraqi government had begun airdrops in northern Iraq and that it was considering providing “direct assistance wherever possible.” Multiple news outlets, including CBS News and the New York Times, reported Thursday that airdrops or airstrikes were among the options under consideration.
Thousands of people from the Yazidi minority—considered “devil worshippers” by the advancing Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS)—have fled their homes in the Sinjar region in northwestern Iraq and are holed up in mountains around the town of Sinjar, according to the United Nations, where they face dehydration and hunger. The UN said on Tuesday that some 40 children have died.
“According to official reports received by UNICEF, these children from the Yazidi minority died as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration over the past two days.”