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The Obama administration has begun providing weapons to Kurdish forces who are battling a militant army in northern Iraq, officials said Monday.

The militant group Islamic State, known also as both ISIS and ISIL, is the target of U.S. airstrikes that began last week, designed to protect U.S. personnel and religious minorities under siege from the militants.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said "ISIL has obtained some heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms and we're providing those — there's nothing new here."

White House officials said last week they would be providing arms to the Kurds; officials in the U.S. and Iraq are working to accelerate the deliveries of weapons.

"This is being done in full coordination," Harf said. "The cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil (the Kurdish capital) has been at historic levels, with the Iraqi air force even providing direct support now to Kurdish forces engaged in combat against ISIL."

The Associated Press reports:

The officials wouldn't say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn't the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

The move to directly aid the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State militants' gains in the north, and reflects the persistent administration view that the Iraqis must take the necessary steps to solve their own security problems.

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