Iraq was massing forces yesterday for an operation to break a two-month jihadist siege of the Shia Turkmen town of Amerli, amid growing fears for residents short of food and water.
The imminent counter-offensive comes amid reports that US President Barack Obama is weighing a decision to authorise air strikes and aid drops in the area to assist around 12,000 residents trapped in the northern town.
According to a civilian volunteer commander, thousands of Shia militiamen from groups including Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organisation are gathering in the Tuz Khurmatu area of Salaheddin province, just north of Amerli, in preparation for a battle to break the siege. And an army lieutenant general said that security forces were mobilising in the Jabal Hamreen area, south of Amerli, to launch an attack from the southern flank.
Time is running out for the mainly Shia Turkmen residents of Amerli, who face danger both because of their Shia faith, which jihadists consider heresy, and their resistance against the militants, which has drawn deadly retribution elsewhere.
And nine countries have now committed to providing arms to Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga troops, who are fighting IS jihadists in north and east Iraq. Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel put the number of countries on board at eight, while Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani said that Iran has provided arms and equipment as well, bringing the total to at least nine.