A Pentagon official said Friday the US has started flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect US civilians and military forces in the Iraqi capital.

The official said the flights started in the past 24 to 48 hours to bolster manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights the military has been sending over violence-wracked Iraq in recent weeks. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the new flights on the record.

The official stressed that the armed drones are to provide US protection and that President Barack Obama still has not authorized airstrikes against Sunni militants who have been over-running territory in other parts of the country.

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