After first airstrikes, US drops new aid to thousands of Iraqis fleeing militant advance
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) - The U.S. launched a new airdrop Saturday to aid thousands of members of an Iraqi minority group who fled the advance of the Islamic State group, trying to stem a worsening humanitarian crisis in a country reeling from the extremist offensive.
The extremists have captured hundreds of women from the Yazidi religious minority, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians fled in fear.
Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi whose plight - trapped on a mountaintop by the militants - prompted the U.S. to airdrop crates of food and water to them.
Yazidis belong to ancient religion seen by the Islamic State group as heretical. The group also sees Shiite Muslims as apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.
American planes conducted a second airdrop of food and water early Saturday for those trapped in the Sinjar mountains, said Pentagon chief spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. Escorted by two Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees, including more than 28,000 meals and more than 1,500 gallons of water, said Kirby, who spoke from New Delhi during a trip with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Kurdish fighters, routed by better-armed extremists, may get US weapons after years of pleas
WASHINGTON (AP) - For years, Kurdish officials have beseeched the Obama administration to let them buy U.S. weapons. And for just as long, the administration has rebuffed the Kurds, America’s closest allies in Iraq.
U.S. officials insisted they could only sell arms to the government in Baghdad, even after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki broke a written promise to deliver some of them to the Kurds, whose peaceful, semi-autonomous northern region had been the lone success story to come out of the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Now, the administration is confronting the consequences of that policy. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which some American officials have dubbed “a terrorist army,” overpowered lightly armed Kurdish units in a blitzkrieg that has threatened the Kurdish region and the American personnel stationed there.
In June, the Pentagon dispatched 300 military advisers to Iraq. Dozens of them are operating out of Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, which is now under threat from the Islamic State.
In a bitter irony, the extremists used American armored vehicles and weapons they had seized from the hapless Iraqi military to defeat Kurdish fighters who were blocked from acquiring just such equipment, U.S. and Kurdish officials said.
Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza as rockets fired toward Israel after truce in war collapses