Iraqi security forces, along with Shiite militiamen, broke a nearly two-month siege by Islamic State militants on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, Iraqi officials said on Sunday.
Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the operation started at dawn Sunday and the forces entered the town shortly after midday, The Associated Press reported.
Speaking live on state TV, al-Moussawi said the forces suffered “some casualities,” but did not give a specific number. He said fighting was “still ongoing to clear the surrounding villages.”
Breaking the siege was a “big achievement and an important victory” he said, for all involved: the Iraqi army, elite troops, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias.
However, U.S. officials would not confirm reports that security forces had broken the siege and Pentagon sources told Fox News to expect more U.S. airstrikes in the Amerli area throughout Sunday.
About 15,000 Shiite Turkmens had been stranded in the farming community, some 105 north of Baghdad. Instead of fleeing in the face of the Islamic State drive across northern Iraq, the Shiite Turkmens have stayed and fortified their town with trenches and armed positions.
Iraqi troops began the push to retake the town from ISIS on Saturday. Its water and electricity have been cut off since June and surrounded by 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.
Mr Abbott, on Monday, did the rounds of television media after announcing on Sunday that Australia would directly supply Kurdish fighters in Erbil with weapons to help them fight Islamic State, alongside coalition allies including the US, Britain, Canada, France and Italy.
He also rejected the need for parliamentary permission to engage in Iraq again, a move being pushed by the Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie, as “novel” and said military decisions were always taken by the government’s national security committee and then the cabinet.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia has a “responsibility” to help the Kurds because of the number of radicalised Australians who have joined Islamic State and are fighting alongside terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
Air Force Chief Mark Binskin has said Australian troops will personally hand over rocket propelled grenades, mortars and ammunition to Kurdish officials from the Peshmerga and warned that “we want to make sure that we know where the arms go and the munitions go when we deliver [them]“.
Ms Bishop said on Monday that the government’s “aim is to make the Peshmerga strong enough to defend themselves” in the face of the most “brutal, barbaric attacks”.
“The bigger risk is to do nothing. The Peshmerga currently can’t defend themselves against ISIS, if the world stands by and does not help them we could see mass killings on a terrible horrific scale,” she said.
Mr Abbott on Monday refused to comment on Fairfax Media’s report that SAS soldiers would accompany troops on the flights to provide security for the weapons handover, saying it was an operational matter.
Germany is facing an “increased abstract threat” stemming from hundreds of people who joined extremists in Syria and Iraq and may eventually return to hit Germany, domestic intelligence warns, as Berlin approves arming Kurdish forces deterring IS in Iraq.
“We have to assume … that there may well be people who return and commit attacks,” the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maassen, told Deutschlandfunk radio, adding that there was an “increased abstract threat” of attacks in Germany.
At least 25 jihadists have already come back to Germany, with more than 400 Germans currently believed to be fighting there, Maassen told the radio. In Syria he said, at least five Germans are known to have committed suicide attacks, something that is “simply not acceptable from a German point of view.”
The head of domestic intelligence service said that the Islamic State attracts much more fighters from abroad than any other extremist organization due to their “brutality” and “radicalism.”
“[Islamic State are] far more attractive than Jabhat al-Nursa, the al-Qaida offshoot in Syria. What attracts people is their high brutality, their radicalism, their strictness,” Maassen said as he stressed the necessity to cooperate with Turkey a key transit hub of foreign born nationals traveling to fight in Syria and Iraq.
Meanwhile Berlin has approved 70 million euros in funds for arming Kurdish forces in Iraq who are struggling to contain Islamic State advances.
problem, reaction, solution..
isnt the PKK on terrorist watch lists? food for thought..
just one thing i have noticed..we are told of strikes on IS in iraq..and told they take out one tank or two cars and this created a defeat?..something isnt sounding right in my mind..i would want to see hundreds of dead IS militia for there to be a “defeat”? how can one tank and a few utes with machine guns apparently hold a whole town under siege?