The Washington Post reports: Iraqi troops aided by U.S. airstrikes entered the besieged town of Amerli Sunday, residents and Iraqi officials said, after a months-long blockade by Islamic State militants that had surrounded the Shiite Turkmen village and raised fears of an impending massacre.
“Amerli has been liberated,” said Mahdi Taqi, a local politician and Amerli resident who was inside the town during the siege. “There is so much joy and people are cheering in the streets.”
Jihadists had surrounded the town in June, preventing food and other aid from reaching the population there. Residents had armed themselves to fend off the militants, who have made sweeping gains across the country in recent months, but critical supplies began to run low.
The U.S. strikes around Amerli in support of Iraqi troops on Saturday, and which the Pentagon said would be “limited in their scope and duration,” appeared to swiftly tilt the balance in favor of Iraqi government forces.
Militia leaders aiding the offensive and Iraqi government officials had said that a coordinated assault to clear the Islamic State-controlled towns around Amerli – and eventually the siege’s front line – began after nightfall in Iraq on Saturday.
Karim al-Nouri, a high-ranking official in the Badr Brigades, a large Shiite militia, said that around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, thousands of the militia’s fighters moved toward the nearby Sunni town of Suleiman Beg, thought to be under the Islamic State’s control. Nouri said the operation was carried out in collaboration with other armed groups, the Iraqi air force and army.
The U.S. strikes and coordinated humanitarian aid drop marked the second time this month that the United States has intervened militarily in Iraq to prevent a jihadist attack on thousands of trapped civilians. [Continue reading…]