WASHINGTON (AP) — Aircraft from the United States, Australia, France and Britain dropped food and water to the beleaguered Iraqi town of Amirli, which has been under siege by Islamic State militants for nearly two months, the Pentagon said Saturday night. U.S. airstrikes supported the humanitarian mission.
Thousands of Shiite Turkmen have been stranded in the farming community about 105 miles north of Baghdad. The aid came at the request of the Iraqi government, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
Military operations will be limited in scope and duration as needed to address the humanitarian crisis in Amirli and protect the civilians trapped in the town, Kirby said.
Instead of fleeing in the face of the Islamic State drive across northern Iraq, the Shiite Turkmens have stayed and fortified their town of 15,000 with trenches and armed positions.
While Amirli (pronounced A'-mur-lee) fought off the initial attack in June, it has been surrounded by the militants since mid-July. Some residents have said that the Iraqi military's efforts to fly in food, water and other aid have not been enough amid oppressive heat, lack of electrical power — the town's power station was destroyed weeks ago — and shelling from the militants.
The U.S. had been watching the area closely in case a slaughter of the Turkmen appeared imminent and air support was needed, said Michael Knights, who studies Iraq and the Persian Gulf as a fellow of The Washington Institute. U.S. airstrikes will hasten the success of the relief effort on the ground, he said.
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