December 19, 2014
Iraqi, Kurdish forces in bid to break Islamic State siege of town
Iraqi army and Kurdish forces closed in on Islamic State fighters in a push to break the Sunni militants' siege of the Shi'ite town of Amerli, army sources said.
Two officers said Iraqi troops, militia and Kurdish peshmerga were advancing from four directions on the northern town, which has been surrounded by Islamic State forces for more than two months.
Separately, a suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives killed at least 11 people in a town just south of Baghdad.
Armed residents of Amerli have managed to fend off attacks by the Islamic State fighters, who regard its majority Shi'ite Turkman population as apostates. More than 15,000 people remain trapped inside.
A major in the Iraqi army, who was advancing north towards Amerli from Udhaim, said progress was slow because the militants had mined the roads. He said they were around 15 km (9 miles) from the town, while those approaching from the north were just 3 km away.
The major said he had counted the corpses of more than 40 militants killed in Iraqi air strikes on the road between Udhaim and the village of Injana.
Also today, the Pentagon said US warplanes and armed drones carried out five airstrikes on Islamic State fighters near Iraq's largest dam, the latest in a series of attacks in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
The strikes destroyed an Islamic State armed vehicle, a fighting position and weapons and damaged a building near Mosul Dam, the Pentagon said. Backed by US air power, Kurdish forces recaptured the strategic facility nearly two weeks ago.