Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. Aid, Air Raids Target Siege in Iraq

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. Aid, Air Raids Target Siege in Iraq

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - In a broadening of its campaign against the Islamic State, the United States launched airstrikes Saturday on Sunni militants who have been besieging the town of Amerli in northern Iraq.

The Pentagon announced the expanded strikes Saturday night. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said that U.S. planes also airdropped food, water and humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq's Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege by the militants for more than two months.

Aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom joined the United States in dropping the supplies, Adm. Kirby said in a statement.

Administration officials had characterized the dangers facing the Turkmen, who are Shiite Muslims considered infidels by Islamic State, as similar to the threat faced by thousands of Yazidis, who were driven to Mount Sinjar in Iraq after attacks by the militants. The United Nations special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said last week that the situation in Amerli demanded "immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens."

Adm. Kirby said that the U.S. military would "assess the effectiveness" of the airstrikes and airdrops and work with international organizations to provide humanitarian aid as needed.

The U.S. action occurred as Iraqi forces launched a ground operation Saturday to break the nearly three-month siege of Amerli.

Residents said several large crates of badly needed food, including biscuits, baby formula, fruit drinks and dates, were dropped by parachute, unlike previous relief deliveries by Iraqi forces whose helicopters have landed in town.

The fresh aid and military offensive cheered residents of Amerli, a farming community about 100 miles north of Baghdad.

Surrounded by Sunni Arab militants since June, its water and electricity have been cut off, food and medical supplies are running low and at least 10 people have died due to the fighting and illness, residents said. …

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