BEIRUT

Middle East

Iraqi aircraft strike ISIS near besieged town

Shiite fighters, from the brigades of peace loyal to Shiite religious authority Moqtada al-Sadr, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against ISIS, take part in field training in Najaf August 23, 2014. (REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani)

KIRKUK: Iraqi aircraft carried out strikes targeting jihadists in the Amerli area Friday as security forces ready a major assault to break through to the besieged Shiite Turkmen town, officers said.

Amerli has been surrounded by jihadists for more than two months, and its residents face severe shortages of food and water, as well as the threat of the militants.

Iraqi aircraft struck jihadists in villages in the Amerli area, said Col. Mustafa al-Bayati, while Staff Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir al-Zaidi said an Mi-35 helicopter targeted militants near Jabal Hamreen, to its south.

Militia forces have been massing north of Amerli, while Iraqi troops push towards the town from the south in a major operation to free it.

Residents of Amerli are in grave danger both because of their Shiite faith, which jihadists consider heresy, and their resistance to the militants, which has drawn harsh retribution elsewhere.

Iraqi forces retook several villages on the way to Amerli Thursday, as part of a major operation to free the town.

And officials say that Washington is weighing both aid drops and airstrikes to help the town.

"It could be a humanitarian operation. It could be a military operation. It could be both," a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity.

 

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