U.S. officials: about 4,500 atop Iraqi mountain

Officials say “circumstances less dire than feared” on top of Sinjar Mountain

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Two U.S. officials say that roughly 4,500 people remain atop northern Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain, and nearly half are herders who lived there before the siege and have no interest in being evacuated.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said a U.S. team who spent Wednesday on the mountaintop reported numbers far smaller and circumstances less dire than feared.

The Obama administration had been contemplating a military-led rescue of civilians who fled to the mountain to escape Islamic militants. But it had been unclear how many people might need evacuation. Some had reported them to number in the tens of thousands.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that it was “far less likely” now that a rescue mission would be needed.

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