US president Barack Obama will press ahead with airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) militant targets in Iraq, fearing that the escalating situation could lead to another Benghazi-style attack on US interests in the war-torn country.

The situation in northern Iraq remains highly volatile as the Sunni insurgents, who have established a caliphate, continue to make rapid advances.

Apart from making significant territorial gains, the insurgents have trapped several women and children in mountainous regions as hostages.

Obama is said to have held several discussions with top US officials in Washington and diplomatic missions in Iraq, before deciding to authorise targeted strikes on the militants.

“The situation near Erbil was becoming more dire than anyone expected. We didn’t want another Benghazi,” a senior Obama administration official told the New York Times.

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