August 30, 2014
Kirkuk (Iraq) (AFP) – Iraqi security forces, Shiite militiamen and Kurdish fighters launched a major operation Saturday to break the more than two-month jihadist siege of a Shiite Turkmen-majority town, officials said.
The operation has been in the works for days, with Iraqi aircraft carrying out strikes and forces massing for the drive toward Amerli, which has been besieged since militants led by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group launched a major offensive in June.
Residents face major shortages of food and water, and are in danger both because of their Shiite faith, which jihadists consider heresy, and their resistance to the militants, which has drawn harsh retribution elsewhere.
Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said the operation to free Amerli from the jihadists has been launched with support from Iraqi aircraft, vowing that “we will be victorious over them”.
Karim al-Nuri, spokesman for the Badr Organisation militia, said thousands of its fighters were taking part alongside civilian volunteers and security forces.
Forces from two other Shiite militias — Asaib Ahl al-Haq and powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam forces — had also been gathering north of Amerli for the attack.
And Karim Mulla Shakur, a Kurdish political party official, said that Kurdish peshmerga fighters were also involved.
Officials have said that Washington is weighing both aid drops and air strikes to help the town.
“It could be a humanitarian operation. It could be a military operation. It could be both,” a US defence official said on condition of anonymity.
There is “no possibility of evacuating them so far”, Eliana Nabaa, spokeswoman for the UN mission in Iraq, has said of Amerli residents.
And UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov has called for an urgent effort to help Amerli, saying residents face a “possible massacre” if the town is overrun.
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