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US begins humanitarian mission to Iraq, plans airdrops of relief supplies

The United States began an effort to drop humanitarian aid to trapped Iraqis on Thursday, while denying reports that American forces had conducted airstrikes in Kurdish territory.

U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News that flights to Iraq had begun to drop humanitarian supplies. Those officials also indicated the military was ready to defend personnel and resources if threatened.

Earlier Thursday the New York Times reported, citing Kurdish and Iraqi sources, that military forces conducted airstrikes in northern Iraq against militants who had trapped religious minorities in Kurdish areas. The Times initially reported the strikes were conducted by the United States, but later suggested the strikes might have been conducted by U.S. allies like Turkey or Iraq.

The McClatchy newspaper chain also reported jet aircraft attacking Islamic militant positions in the Kurdish region, citing a local source, though the report said it was not clear who was conducting the strike.

The Pentagon's press secretary, via his verified Twitter account, denied any U.S. airstrikes had taken place.

The White House denied reports that President Obama was about to make a statement, saying it was a "very fluid situation."

Dow futures were slightly higher in early trading. (Where are market futures trading? Click here for the latest)

Brent and U.S. crude were down earlier on Thursday but rallied after the New York Times reported Obama was considering airstrikes on the Islamic State fighters who have surged across northern Iraq toward the capital of its Kurdish region.

Read MoreObama weighs options to help trapped Iraqis

White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not confirm that airstrikes were being considered.

"There are no American military solutions to the problems in Iraq," he said.

—CNBC.com Staff with Reuters