A young displaced Iraqi Shiite, who fled her homes a few weeks ago, due to attacks by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in the northern city of Mosul, looks out from inside a tent at the Bhrka camp ten kilometers west of Arbil, the capital of northern Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region. (AFP Photo)
Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias on Sunday broke the two-month siege of Amerli by Islamic State militants and entered the northern town, officials said.
The mayor of Amerli and army officers said troops backed by militias defeated fighters from the Islamic State (IS) to the east of the town. Fighting continued to the north of Amerli.
"Security forces and militia fighters are inside Amerli now after breaking the siege and that will definitely relieve the suffering of residents," said Adel al-Bayati, mayor of Amerli.
The advance of the Iraqi forces comes after the U.S. military carried out air strikes overnight on IS militant positions near the town and airdropped humanitarian supplies to the trapped residents there. More aid was dropped from British, French and Australian planes.
"I can see the tanks of the Iraqi army patrolling Amerli's street now. I'm very happy we got rid of the Islamic State terrorists who were threatening to slaughter us," said Amir Ismael, an Amerli resident, by phone.
Armed residents had managed to fend off attacks by IS fighters, who encircled the town and regarded its majority Shiite Turkmen population as apostates. More than 15,000 people had remained trapped inside Amerli.
IS has captured large swathes of northern Iraq since June. Earlier this month, the radical group dealt a bruising defeat to Kurdish forces and threatened to enter their self-rule region, prompting air strikes by the United States.
Obama authorised air strikes
President Barack Obama authorised the new military action, broadening US operations in Iraq amid an international outcry over the threat to Amerli's mostly ethnic Turkmen population.
US aircraft delivered over a hundred bundles of emergency supplies and more aid was dropped from British, French and Australian planes, officials said, signalling headway in Obama's efforts to draw allies into the fight against Islamic State.. "In conjunction with this airdrop, US aircraft conducted coordinated air strikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation," Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary said, adding that a key objective was to prevent a militant attack on civilians in the town.