(Reuters) - Britain will send Chinook helicopters to help refugees trapped in northern Iraq, particularly on Mount Sinjar, the government said on Tuesday.
"As part of our efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Iraq, we are sending a small number of Chinook helicopters to the region for use if we decide we need further humanitarian relief options," a spokesman from Prime Minister David Cameron's office said following a meeting of the government's emergency response committee.
Britain has also agreed to transport critical military re-supplies being provided by other contributing nations to the Kurdish forces, so that they could protect refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan from militants of the Islamic State (IS), the spokesman said.
Thousands of people belonging to the Yazidi religious sect have been driven into the arid Sinjar mountain range by Sunni Muslim militants belonging to the IS who want to re-create a mediaeval-style caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.
The Chinook helicopters, which have a 500-mile operational range, have the capability to land on rough terrain and can be used to deliver heavy loads as well as for evacuations.
Britain is already conducting aid drops in the region from C-130 cargo planes and on Tuesday sent Tornado jets to help guide the humanitarian effort.
The government said three UK aid drops had already taken place, with two C-130s having delivered 3180 re-usable water containers, filled with a total of 15,900 litres of clean water, and 816 solar lanterns overnight.
Cameron's office has so far dismissed calls from politicians and other commentators to recall parliament from its summer break and debate whether the country should join the United States in intervening militarily against IS.
(Reporting by William James and Esha Vaish; Editing by Bernard Orr)