American airstrikes were carried out Saturday and Sunday through drones and fighter jets in order to provide air support for Kurdish ground troops in the area of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
The Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers have been squaring off against the Islamic State (IS) jihadi militants – battling over several territories in Iraq’s north. Kurdish fighters have retaken the city of Gwer and are close to securing Makhmur, where American air support is pounding IS positions, according to Kurdish officials. Over five different US airstrikes were carried out Sunday, successfully destroying three IS armored vehicles and damaging others. Another strike neutralized an IS mortar site.
Iraqi officials told CNN that the American airstrikes have killed at least 16 Islamic State militants. The Pentagon has refused to comment on the Iraqi claims.
Image: The Guardian
Separate American strikes hit areas near Mount Sinjar, where over twenty thousand Yazidis and other Iraqis have fled, in order to stop the advances of the Islamic State.
According to an Iraqi government minister, the Islamic state has been burying Yazidi women alive and taking some as slaves. The Islamic State, which considers the Yazidi people to be “devil worshippers,” has ordered them to either convert to Sunni Islam or face execution. The Iraqi official told Reuters, “We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis feeling Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images, that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic State have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar.” He continued, “Some of the victims, including women and children, were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar.”
Stranded Yazidis (Image: Reuters)
The US military reported that C-17 and C-130 cargo planes have supplied the stranded Yazidis with over 52,000 meals and 10,600 gallons of drinking water. Officials from the United Kingdom and France said Saturday that they are set to join the humanitarian airdrop effort.
New York Times journalists on the ground observed that the American support has helped to garner momentum in favor of the Peshmerga army: “The American airstrikes seemed to have quickly restored confidence here, with international flights into Erbil resuming after a pause, and business returning to normal. Cheering truckloads of Peshmerga fighters cruised the highway between here and Erbil.”
President Obama said Saturday that America should prepare for a long mission. “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” he said before jetting off to Martha’s Vineyard for a 15-day vacation. “This is going to be a long-term project.”