Iraqis on Friday welcomed the US airlift of emergency aid to thousands of people who fled to the mountains to escape Islamic extremists and called for greater intervention, as US warplanes struck the militants for the first time.
Cargo planes dropped parachuted crates of food and water over an area in the mountains outside Sinjar near the Syrian border, where thousands of members of the Yazidi minority where sheltering, according to witnesses in the militant-held town, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.
The airstrikes were meanwhile launched outside the Kurdish regional capital Erbil, and marked the first time US forces have directly targeted the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which controls large areas of Syria and Iraq.
In contrast to Washington’s decision to invade Iraq more than a decade ago, both the airdrop and the authorization of military action against the Islamic State group were widely welcomed by Iraqi and Kurdish officials fearful of the militants’ lightning advance across the country.
“We thank Barack Obama,” said Khalid Jamal Alber, from the Religious Affairs Ministry in the semi-autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq.
The Iraqi Ministry of Immigration and the Displaced also welcomed the aid drops. Ministry spokesman Satar Nawrouz said the drops came “just in time.”