Iraqi planes evacuate starving children from besieged town

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By Mazen Abdulhameed

Azzaman, August 29, 2014

Iraqi air force planes are defying Jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) by delivering food and medical supplies to nearly 18,000 inhabitants of Amerli.

“One helicopter managed to land in the besieged town and evacuated the most vulnerable to a hospital in Baghdad, including some starving children,” an air force source refusing to be named said.

IS militants have encircled Amerli for nearly 80 days in the hope of storming it but the inhabitants despite their worsening conditions have repelled the invaders.

There are major risks for any plane flying low in bid to land in Amerli as IS jihadists have anti-aircraft guns in their possession.

Amerli is inhabited by Turkmen, Iraqis of Turkish ethnic background, but they are Shiites and in the eyes of IS Jihadists they are apostates who should be killed.

The arrival of the helicopter and the escalation in food drops from the air is said to have boosted the defenders’ morale.

Reports from inside the town say the defenders are trying to barge into IS lines to connect with a new force of Iraqi volunteers and regular troops that is trying to break the siege.

There have been calls from Iraqi leaders and religious dignitaries from the city of Najaf – which is holy to the Shiites – for the defenders to remain steadfast and not give up to IS militants.

But military sources say there was risk of Amerli’s defenses collapsing as the fighters inside the town were under immense pressure with scores of people killed and many injured as a result of IS’s mortar bombs.

“The continuation of the blockade against Amerli and the absence of a military plan to break the more than 80-day siege has given IS the upper hand,” one source said.

The situation in Amerli will only change if the defenders receive new recruits or Iraqi troops succeed in reaching the town from at least on direction, the source added.

At least 250 children suffer from dehydration and many fear of the consequences if the town falls to IS, another source said.

IS militants were brutal to the Turkmen Shiite populations in the towns and villages they occupied in the northern Province of Nineveh. Those who did not manage to flee were either killed or taken prisoner.