UK & World News

  • 31 August 2014, 22:15

Iraq: RAF Drops Aid As Amerli Siege 'Broken'

Iraqi forces and Shia militiamen have reportedly broken the two-month Islamic State (IS) siege of the northern town of Amerli.

The development came as it emerged thatRAFplanes have helped to drop vital humanitarian aid to residents in the town.

Iraqi army spokesman Lieutenant General Qassim al Moussawi said forces have "reached" the Shia Turkmen town, but gave no further details.

Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al Tarzi said the forces, which also included Kurdish peshmerga fighters, entered the town from two directions.

They were now distributing aid to residents, he said.

Mayor of Amerli, Adel al Bayatisaid: "Security forces and militia fighters are inside Amerli now after breaking the siege and that will definitely relieve the suffering of residents."

Resident AmirIsmael told the Reuters news agency: "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."

Around 15,000 Shia Turkmens have been stranded in the farming community, where residents faced major shortages of food and water.

They were also in danger because of their Shia faith, which jihadists consider heresy, and their resistance to the militants, which has drawn harsh retribution elsewhere.

The UN envoy to Iraq warned the people there faced a "possible massacre" by IS fighters after they encircled the town.

Fighting is continuing to the north of Amerli, which is 105 miles (170km) north of Baghdad.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Sky News two Hercules aircraft participated in a "big" aid drop on Saturday.

"The RAF dropped 14 tonnes of food and water there for a Shia population there that's been completely besieged," Mr Fallon told the Murnaghan programme.

Aircraft from the US, France and Australia also took part, with the US dropping almost 48,000 litres (10,500 gallons) of drinking water and 7,000 pre-packaged meals.

The US conducted three airstrikes against the militants near the town which destroyed five IS vehicles and a checkpoint.

Mr Fallon added the UK has not been asked to participate in military action, but said the UK will "look at any further action the Iraqi government thinks will help".

But he ruled out deploying combat troops.

"We have been involved in ferrying supplies of arms as well as non-lethal equipment from eastern European countries - the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, tend to use eastern European equipment and ammunition," Mr Fallon said.

"We have been involved in transporting supplies and we will continue to look favourably on any requests to do that."

He said the UK was "helping in any way we can at the moment".

"We are helping with humanitarian aid, we are helping with surveillance, we are helping with counter-terrorism, we are supporting the (Prime Minister designate Haider al) Abadi government, we are helping internationally."

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "The UK's humanitarian response has been swift and effective.

"When people depend on our support and protection to survive, we will continue to take action."

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