Iraq begins major operation to free besieged town

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BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces backed by Shia militiamen and Kurdish fighters launched a major operation Saturday to break the more than two-month rebel siege of a Shia Turkmen-majority town, officials said.

The operation has been in the works for days, with Iraqi aircraft carrying out strikes and forces massing for the drive toward Amerli, which has been besieged since ISIL  group launched a major offensive in June.

Residents face major shortages of food and water, and are in danger both because of their faith, which ISIL considers heresy, and their resistance to the militants, which has drawn harsh retribution elsewhere.

Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said the operation to free Amerli from the rebels has been launched with support from Iraqi aircraft, vowing that “we will be victorious over them”.

Karim al-Nuri, spokesman for the Badr Organisation militia, said thousands of its fighters were taking part alongside civilian volunteers and security forces.

Forces from two other Shia militias – Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Moqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam forces – had also been gathering north of Amerli for the attack.

And Karim Mulla Shakur, a Kurdish political party official, said that Kurdish peshmerga fighters were also involved.

And UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov has called for an urgent effort to help Amerli, saying residents face a “possible massacre” if the town is overrun. – AFP, August 30, 2014.

Officials in Washington however said there was “no possibility of evacuating the trapped civilians of Amerli so far”.

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