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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 17 February, 2020

Breakthrough against IS: Iraqi troops reach town of Amerli, ending 2-month siege

It’s the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since IS militants overran large areas of the country in June.

Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen in Amirli today.
Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen in Amirli today.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

IRAQI FORCES HAVE broken through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli, where thousands of people have been trapped for more than two months with dwindling food and water supplies.

It is the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside.

The breakthrough came as America carried out limited strikes in the area, the first time it has expanded its more than three-week air campaign against militants outside of Iraq’s north.

Aircraft from several countries also dropped humanitarian aid to Amerli.

The mainly Shiite Turkmen residents of the town in Salaheddin province were running desperately short of food and water, and endangered both because of their Shiite faith, which jihadists consider heresy, and their resistance to the militants, which has drawn harsh retribution elsewhere.


UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov had warned that they faced a “massacre” by the besieging militants.

“Our forces entered Amerli and broke the siege,” Iraqi security spokesman Lieutenant General Qassem Atta told AFP, an account confirmed by a local official and a fighter from the town.

“It is a very important success,” Atta later said on state television.

Colonel Mustafa al-Bayati said this evening that the town of Amerli is “completely secure”, but that clashes were still ongoing in villages to its west.

The operation to free Amerli was launched yesterday after days of preparations in which Iraqi security forces, Shiite militiamen and Kurdish fighters deployed for the assault and Iraqi aircraft carried out strikes against militants.

A Shiite militia commander, meanwhile, said Kurdish fighters and militiamen had surrounded militant-held Sulaiman Bek and Yankaja, north of Amerli.

- © AFP, 2014

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