Airstrikes and aid provide relief for Iraqi town

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Airstrikes and aid provide relief for Iraqi town
This image released by the U.S. Air Force, shows pallets of bottled water loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr)
President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, about ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Obama announced late Thursday that he had ordered military airstrikes in northern Iraq to hold off Islamic State forces advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil. Obama also ordered airdrops of food and water to member of a religious minority group who fled into the mountains to escape the militants. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
This Aug. 7, 2014, released by the U.S. Air Force, shows U.S. Soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, 101st Airborne Division and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Gulf Cooperation Council work with parachute riggers assigned to the 11th Quartermaster Co., Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade to palletize halal meals for a humanitarian airdrop in Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock)
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 9: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Staff Sgt. Daniel Leavindofske, 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron ramp team chief and Senior Airman David Babcock, air transportation journeyman, assist with loading bundles of halal meals on to a C-17 Globemaster III for a humanitarian airdrop mission over Iraq, August 9, 2014, at a base in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The humanitarian aid includes bottled water and food which was delivered to displaced citizens in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, about ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Obama announced late Thursday that he had ordered military airstrikes in northern Iraq to hold off Islamic State forces advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil. Obama also ordered airdrops of food and water to member of a religious minority group who fled into the mountains to escape the militants. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, about ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Obama announced late Thursday that he had ordered military airstrikes in northern Iraq to hold off Islamic State forces advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil. Obama also ordered airdrops of food and water to member of a religious minority group who fled into the mountains to escape the militants. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, about ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Obama announced late Thursday that he had ordered military airstrikes in northern Iraq to hold off Islamic State forces advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil. Obama also ordered airdrops of food and water to member of a religious minority group who fled into the mountains to escape the militants. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
This image released by the U.S. Air Force, shows pallets of bottled water loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr)
This image provided by the U.S. Defense Department shows pallets of bottled water are loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq Aug. 8, 2014. Airmen with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron airdropped 40 bundles of water for displaced citizens in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. 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. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
President Barack Obama approaches the podium to speak about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama arrives to speak about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
This Aug. 7, 2014, image released by the U.S. Air Force shows U.S. Airmen with the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron palletize halal meals for a humanitarian airdrop in Iraq on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
This Aug. 7, 2014, released by the U.S. Air Force, shows U.S. Soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, 101st Airborne Division and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Gulf Cooperation Council working with parachute riggers assigned to the 11th Quartermaster Co., Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade to palletize water for a humanitarian airdrop in Iraq Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock)
In this image provided by the U.S. Defense Department supplies aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft are seen in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq Friday Aug. 8, 2014. Airmen with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron airdropped 40 bundles of water for displaced citizens in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. 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. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
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BY LOLITA C. BALDOR
ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Aircraft from the United States, Australia, France and Britain dropped food and water to the beleaguered Iraqi town of Amirli, which has been under siege by Islamic State militants for nearly two months, the Pentagon said Saturday night. U.S. airstrikes supported the humanitarian mission.

Thousands of Shiite Turkmen have been stranded in the farming community about 105 miles north of Baghdad. The aid came at the request of the Iraqi government, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

Military operations will be limited in scope and duration as needed to address the humanitarian crisis in Amirli and protect the civilians trapped in the town, Kirby said.

Instead of fleeing in the face of the Islamic State drive across northern Iraq, the Shiite Turkmens have stayed and fortified their town of 15,000 with trenches and armed positions.

While Amirli (pronounced A'-mur-lee) fought off the initial attack in June, it has been surrounded by the militants since mid-July. Some residents have said that the Iraqi military's efforts to fly in food, water and other aid have not been enough amid oppressive heat, lack of electrical power - the town's power station was destroyed weeks ago - and shelling from the militants.

The U.S. had been watching the area closely in case a slaughter of the Turkmen appeared imminent and air support was needed, said Michael Knights, who studies Iraq and the Persian Gulf as a fellow of The Washington Institute. U.S. airstrikes will hasten the success of the relief effort on the ground, he said.

About half of the town's population is age 15 and under while many others are elderly, sick or wounded, Knights said.

"They are remarkably vulnerable, and ISIS is determined to kill as many of these people as possible," Knights said, referring to an acronym for the Islamic State group. "As the Nazis felt about the Jews, so ISIS feels about the Shia Muslims."

U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, which began earlier this month, have targeted Islamic State militants attacking Yazidi Iraqis on Mount Sinjar and the militant forces operating in the vicinity of Ibril and Mosul Dam. The beleaguered Yazidis received several humanitarian drops of tons of food and water as well as military support aimed at protecting them.

Earlier Saturday, U.S. Central Command said five more airstrikes had taken place against Islamic State militants near Mosul Dam. Those attacks, carried out by fighter aircraft and unmanned drones, brought to 115 the total number of airstrikes across Iraq since Aug. 8.

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