Washington: There are still 4,000 to 5,000 Yazidi refugees sheltering on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said on Thursday, after President Barack Obama said the siege of the range had been broken.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said US special forces had found that not all of the Yazidis, a religious minority under attack from Islamist extremists, planned to flee.
"A number of them -- perhaps 2,000 or so -- reside there and may not want to leave. It`s home to them and they won`t be necessarily looking to leave," he said, downplaying calls for a rescue mission.
"That`s our best estimate based on the assessment teams," he said, referring to the 4,000-5,000 number.
Earlier, Obama said the United States was withdrawing the special forces units that conducted the assessment mission to Sinjar after concluding that the Yazidis were no longer in mortal danger.
He said the US air strikes that were launched last week to protect the refugees and the Kurdish city of Arbil could continue, but only if US personnel or facilities were in danger.
"We believe that the threat to the mass violence on Mount Sinjar has passed, largely passed," Kirby said.
"That said, we`re not going to take our eye off and we`re going to be watching," he said, adding that humanitarian aid drops had continued.
"We still have several thousands left on that mountain and many of whom may want to leave, and so we`re mindful of that, which is why we did another airdrop last night."