Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged town of Amerli yesterday, where thousands of people have been trapped for more than two months with dwindling food and water, officials said. The UN envoy to Iraq earlier warned that people there faced a "possible massacre" by the besieging militants.
"Our forces entered Amerli and broke the siege," Iraqi security spokesman Lieutenant General Qassem Atta told AFP.
Talib al-Bayati, an official responsible for a nearby area, also said that the siege of the Turkmen Shia-majority town has been broken, as did Nihad al-Bayati, who had been fighting to defend the town against the jihadists.
Iraqi security forces, Shia militiamen and Kurdish peshmerga fighters all took part in the operation, which was launched on Saturday after days of preparations in which the various forces deployed for the assault and Iraqi aircraft carried out strikes against militants.
While forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region have previously made gains in the north with backing from American air strikes, the Amerli operation was the first major offensive success for the federal government since the conflict began.
The United States announced that it carried out three air strikes in the Amerli area, the first time its more than three-week air campaign against jihadists in Iraq has been expanded outside the north.
And aircraft from the United States, Australia, France and the United Kingdom also dropped humanitarian aid to the town, the Pentagon announced on Saturday.