World Bulletin / News Desk
Iraqi armed forces have entered the northern town of Amirli which had been under the siege of so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militants for over two months, security sources have said.
Supported by Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the Iraqi army launched an offensive shortly after the U.S. carried out airstrikes against IS positions near the town, and dropped aid for the nearly 20,000 Shiite Turkmen trapped in Amirli.
Armed residents of Amerli had managed to fend off attacks by IS fighters, but more than 15,000 people remained trapped inside.
The IS-led chaos has so far displaced an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis from their homes, and has mainly targeted Shiite Muslims, Turkmens, Yazidis and Christians.
The Iraqi army had failed to respond to a sudden offensive by the IS in June, which led to the group capturing large swathes of land in the country, including Mosul province in the north.
Since then, the government forces and Kurdish forces - peshmerga - have been fighting against the militant group to block their advance.
The international community has condemned the IS and sought to help Baghdad and Erbil in dealing with the Sunni extremist insurgency that has gripped the nation.
Meanwhile, Iraq has experienced political turmoil as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was replaced in early August by Haidar al-Abadi, whom President Fuad Masum assigned to form a unity government.
US AIR STRIKES
The United States carried out air strikes on Saturday against so-called "Islamic State" (IS) fighters near the besieged town of Amerli in northern Iraq and airdropped humanitarian aid to civilians trapped there, the Pentagon said.
President Barack Obama authorized the new military action, broadening U.S. operations in Iraq amid an international outcry over the threat to Amerli's mostly ethnic Turkmen population.
U.S. aircraft delivered over a hundred bundles of emergency supplies and more aid was dropped from British, French and Australian planes, officials said, signaling headway in Obama's efforts to draw allies into the fight against IS.
"At the request of the government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to thousands of Shia Turkmen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL," Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said, using an alternative name for IS.
"In conjunction with this airdrop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated air strikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation," he said, adding that a key objective was to prevent a militant attack on civilians in the town.
He said the operations would be "limited in their scope and duration" in order to protect Amerli's population.
Warplanes hit three Humvee patrol vehicles, a tank and an armed vehicle held by militants in addition to a checkpoint controlled by the group, according to the military's Central Command, which runs U.S. operations in the Middle East. "All aircraft safely exited the area," it said in a statement.
When Obama ordered the first air strikes and air drops in Iraq earlier this month, he justified the military operation in part to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe for thousands of ethnic Yazidis trapped by IS militants on Sinjar mountain in northern Iraq.
In mid-August, he declared that the militant siege there had been broken.
Earlier on Saturday, two officers said Iraqi troops, militia and Kurdish peshmerga were advancing on Amerli from four directions.
A major in the Iraqi army, who was advancing north towards Amerli from Udhaim, said progress was slow because the militants had mined the roads. He said they were around 15 km (9 miles) from the town, while those approaching from the north were just 3 km away.
The major said he had counted the corpses of more than 40 militants killed in Iraqi air strikes on the road between Udhaim and the village of Injana.
Also on Saturday, the Pentagon said U.S. warplanes and armed drones had carried out five air strikes on IS fighters near Iraq's largest dam, the latest in a series of attacks in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
The strikes destroyed an IS armed vehicle, a fighting position and weapons, and damaged a building near Mosul Dam, the Pentagon said. Backed by U.S. air power, Kurdish forces recaptured the strategic facility nearly two weeks ago.
Separately on Saturday, a suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives killed at least 11 people at a checkpoint in the town of Yusifiya, 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad, a police officer said.Güncelleme Tarihi: 31 Ağustos 2014, 16:22