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US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

KHAZER CAMP, Iraq (AP) — President Barack Obama justified the U.S. military’s return to fighting in Iraq Saturday by saying America must act now to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic State militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border.

“This is going to be a long-term project” that won’t end and can’t succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad capable of keeping the country from breaking apart, Obama said at the White House.

U.S. planes and drones launched four airstrikes on Islamic State forces Saturday as they fired indiscriminately on Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains, U.S. Central Command said. The strikes, which were spread out during the day, destroyed armored carriers and a truck, according to the Central Command statement. It was the third round of airstrikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since they were authorized by Obama on Thursday.

The military support also has been helping clear the way for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees in the Sinjar area. Central Command announced Saturday night that the military had made the third such drop, delivering another 72 bundles of supplies, including more than 3,800 gallons of water and more than 16,000 meals.

But the help comes too late for many of the religious minorities targeted for elimination by the Islamic State group, which swept past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces in recent weeks and now controls much of Iraq.

A delayed response by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad left Kurdish forces struggling to contain the Sunni extremists’ advances. With nowhere to go but uphill, Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees sought shelter in the mile-high Sinjar mountains, where their ancient religion holds that Noah’s ark came to rest.

U.S., Iraqi and British cargo planes dropped tons of food, water, tents and other equipment to the refugees Friday and Saturday. Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing people in the Sinjar mountains rushing to collect food and water as the Iraqi government’s fleet of C130 cargo planes dropped 20 tons of aid at a time.

But at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

British officials estimated Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain.

And Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told the AP that more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border, braving gunfire through a tenuous “safe passage” that Kurdish peshmerga forces are trying to protect.

With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped to a camp for displaced Iraqis on Saturday, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop, fleeing the Islamic State extremists.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so awful is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The U.S. military officially withdrew its combat forces in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. It returned to battle Friday when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs on Islamic State fighters advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil as violence sent the number of displaced Iraqis soaring.

Gen. Ahmed, the peshmerga spokesman at the Khazer checkpoint on the frontline outside Irbil, said it was a “good hit,” but the impact wasn’t yet clear. The Kurdish general spoke on condition his last name not be used.

Obama was adamant Saturday that that U.S. troops can’t bring peace to Iraq.

“We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,” he said.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited until Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighters trying to contain the Islamic State’s advance. It was his government’s first show of cooperation with the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell to the extremists in June.

And so Kurdish officials were particularly pleased by the return of U.S. air support as well as the military trainers coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in Irbil.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.

Many of America’s allies have backed the U.S. intervention since the Yazidis plight gained attention. British forces are coordinating aid drops with the U.S. and more broadly, trying to figure out how to help the refugees escape from “a completely unacceptable situation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion, with roots in Zoroastrianism, which the Islamic State group considers heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group also considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, and has demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded north, west and south from their stronghold in Mosul to capture Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir, and occupy Sunni-majority towns almost to Baghdad. They now hold large parts of western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria. Iraqi government forces have prevented the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas in the south, while Kurds have defended the north.

Ethnic and religious minorities fearing slaughter have fled. The U.N. said more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday demonstrating their conquests, including government offices in Kurdish Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. Militants are seen insulting Kurdish President Massoud Barzani by beating his picture with their shoes and slippers.

The group also claimed responsibility for some of the more than 100 deaths in bombings this week in Baghdad, where a police official said Saturday that nine people were found handcuffed and shot to death in different parts of the city. Morgue officials confirmed the information. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief the media.

Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form.

Sunnis in Iraq and Syria have “felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate,” Obama said. “Rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.”

Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad; Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Iraq; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Darlene Superville in Washington and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

KHAZER CAMP, Iraq (AP) — President Barack Obama justified the U.S. military’s return to fighting in Iraq Saturday by saying America must act now to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic State militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border.

“This is going to be a long-term project” that won’t end and can’t succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad capable of keeping the country from breaking apart, Obama said at the White House.

U.S. planes and drones launched four airstrikes on Islamic State forces Saturday as they fired indiscriminately on Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains, U.S. Central Command said. The strikes, which were spread out during the day, destroyed armored carriers and a truck, according to the Central Command statement. It was the third round of airstrikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since they were authorized by Obama on Thursday.

The military support also has been helping clear the way for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees in the Sinjar area.

But the help comes too late for many of the religious minorities targeted for elimination by the Islamic State group, which swept past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces in recent weeks and now controls much of Iraq.

A delayed response by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad left Kurdish forces struggling to contain the Sunni extremists’ advances. With nowhere to go but uphill, Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees sought shelter in the mile-high Sinjar mountains, where their ancient religion holds that Noah’s ark came to rest.

U.S., Iraqi and British cargo planes dropped tons of food, water, tents and other equipment to the refugees Friday and Saturday. Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing people in the Sinjar mountains rushing to collect food and water as the Iraqi government’s fleet of C130 cargo planes dropped 20 tons of aid at a time.

But at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

British officials estimated Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain.

And Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told the AP that more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border, braving gunfire through a tenuous “safe passage” that Kurdish peshmerga forces are trying to protect.

With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped to a camp for displaced Iraqis on Saturday, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop, fleeing the Islamic State extremists.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so awful is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The U.S. military officially withdrew its combat forces in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. It returned to battle Friday when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs on Islamic State fighters advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil as violence sent the number of displaced Iraqis soaring.

Gen. Ahmed, the peshmerga spokesman at the Khazer checkpoint on the frontline outside Irbil, said it was a “good hit,” but the impact wasn’t yet clear. The Kurdish general spoke on condition his last name not be used.

Obama was adamant Saturday that that U.S. troops can’t bring peace to Iraq.

“We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,” he said.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited until Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighters trying to contain the Islamic State’s advance. It was his government’s first show of cooperation with the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell to the extremists in June.

And so Kurdish officials were particularly pleased by the return of U.S. air support as well as the military trainers coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in Irbil.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.

Many of America’s allies have backed the U.S. intervention since the Yazidis plight gained attention. British forces are coordinating aid drops with the U.S. and more broadly, trying to figure out how to help the refugees escape from “a completely unacceptable situation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion, with roots in Zoroastrianism, which the Islamic State group considers heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group also considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, and has demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded north, west and south from their stronghold in Mosul to capture Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir, and occupy Sunni-majority towns almost to Baghdad. They now hold large parts of western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria. Iraqi government forces have prevented the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas in the south, while Kurds have defended the north.

Ethnic and religious minorities fearing slaughter have fled. The U.N. said more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday demonstrating their conquests, including government offices in Kurdish Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. Militants are seen insulting Kurdish President Massoud Barzani by beating his picture with their shoes and slippers.

The group also claimed responsibility for some of the more than 100 deaths in bombings this week in Baghdad, where a police official said Saturday that nine people were found handcuffed and shot to death in different parts of the city. Morgue officials confirmed the information. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief the media.

Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form.

Sunnis in Iraq and Syria have “felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate,” Obama said. “Rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.”

Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad; Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Iraq; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Darlene Superville in Washington and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

KHAZER CAMP, Iraq (AP) — President Barack Obama justified the U.S. military’s return to fighting in Iraq Saturday by saying America must act now to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic State militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border.

“This is going to be a long-term project” that won’t end and can’t succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad capable of keeping the country from breaking apart, Obama said at the White House.

U.S. planes and drones launched four airstrikes on Islamic State forces Saturday as they fired indiscriminately on Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains, U.S. Central Command said. The strikes, which were spread out during the day, destroyed armored carriers and a truck, according to the Central Command statement. It was the third round of airstrikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since they were authorized by Obama on Thursday.

The military support also has been helping clear the way for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees in the Sinjar area.

But the help comes too late for many of the religious minorities targeted for elimination by the Islamic State group, which swept past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces in recent weeks and now controls much of Iraq.

A delayed response by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad left Kurdish forces struggling to contain the Sunni extremists’ advances. With nowhere to go but uphill, Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees sought shelter in the mile-high Sinjar mountains, where their ancient religion holds that Noah’s ark came to rest.

U.S., Iraqi and British cargo planes dropped tons of food, water, tents and other equipment to the refugees Friday and Saturday. Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing people in the Sinjar mountains rushing to collect food and water as the Iraqi government’s fleet of C130 cargo planes dropped 20 tons of aid at a time.

But at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

British officials estimated Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain.

And Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told the AP that more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border, braving gunfire through a tenuous “safe passage” that Kurdish peshmerga forces are trying to protect.

With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped to a camp for displaced Iraqis on Saturday, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop, fleeing the Islamic State extremists.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so awful is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The U.S. military officially withdrew its combat forces in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. It returned to battle Friday when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs on Islamic State fighters advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil as violence sent the number of displaced Iraqis soaring.

Gen. Ahmed, the peshmerga spokesman at the Khazer checkpoint on the frontline outside Irbil, said it was a “good hit,” but the impact wasn’t yet clear. The Kurdish general spoke on condition his last name not be used.

Obama was adamant Saturday that that U.S. troops can’t bring peace to Iraq.

“We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,” he said.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited until Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighters trying to contain the Islamic State’s advance. It was his government’s first show of cooperation with the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell to the extremists in June.

And so Kurdish officials were particularly pleased by the return of U.S. air support as well as the military trainers coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in Irbil.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.

Many of America’s allies have backed the U.S. intervention since the Yazidis plight gained attention. British forces are coordinating aid drops with the U.S. and more broadly, trying to figure out how to help the refugees escape from “a completely unacceptable situation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion, with roots in Zoroastrianism, which the Islamic State group considers heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group also considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, and has demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded north, west and south from their stronghold in Mosul to capture Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir, and occupy Sunni-majority towns almost to Baghdad. They now hold large parts of western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria. Iraqi government forces have prevented the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas in the south, while Kurds have defended the north.

Ethnic and religious minorities fearing slaughter have fled. The U.N. said more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday demonstrating their conquests, including government offices in Kurdish Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. Militants are seen insulting Kurdish President Massoud Barzani by beating his picture with their shoes and slippers.

The group also claimed responsibility for some of the more than 100 deaths in bombings this week in Baghdad, where a police official said Saturday that nine people were found handcuffed and shot to death in different parts of the city. Morgue officials confirmed the information. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief the media.

Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form.

Sunnis in Iraq and Syria have “felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate,” Obama said. “Rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.”

Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad; Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Iraq; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Darlene Superville in Washington and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

KHAZER CAMP, Iraq (AP) — President Barack Obama justified the U.S. military’s return to fighting in Iraq Saturday by saying America must act now to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic State militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border.

“This is going to be a long-term project” that won’t end and can’t succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad capable of keeping the country from breaking apart, Obama said at the White House.

U.S. planes and drones launched four airstrikes on Islamic State forces Saturday as they fired indiscriminately on Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains, U.S. Central Command said. The strikes, which were spread out during the day, destroyed armored carriers and a truck, according to the Central Command statement. It was the third round of airstrikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since they were authorized by Obama on Thursday.

The military support also has been helping clear the way for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees in the Sinjar area.

But the help comes too late for many of the religious minorities targeted for elimination by the Islamic State group, which swept past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces in recent weeks and now controls much of Iraq.

A delayed response by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad left Kurdish forces struggling to contain the Sunni extremists’ advances. With nowhere to go but uphill, Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees sought shelter in the mile-high Sinjar mountains, where their ancient religion holds that Noah’s ark came to rest.

U.S., Iraqi and British cargo planes dropped tons of food, water, tents and other equipment to the refugees Friday and Saturday. Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing people in the Sinjar mountains rushing to collect food and water as the Iraqi government’s fleet of C130 cargo planes dropped 20 tons of aid at a time.

But at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

British officials estimated Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain.

And Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told the AP that more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border, braving gunfire through a tenuous “safe passage” that Kurdish peshmerga forces are trying to protect.

With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped to a camp for displaced Iraqis on Saturday, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop, fleeing the Islamic State extremists.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so awful is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The U.S. military officially withdrew its combat forces in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. It returned to battle Friday when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs on Islamic State fighters advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil as violence sent the number of displaced Iraqis soaring.

Gen. Ahmed, the peshmerga spokesman at the Khazer checkpoint on the frontline outside Irbil, said it was a “good hit,” but the impact wasn’t yet clear. The Kurdish general spoke on condition his last name not be used.

Obama was adamant Saturday that that U.S. troops can’t bring peace to Iraq.

“We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,” he said.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited until Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighters trying to contain the Islamic State’s advance. It was his government’s first show of cooperation with the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell to the extremists in June.

And so Kurdish officials were particularly pleased by the return of U.S. air support as well as the military trainers coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in Irbil.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.

Many of America’s allies have backed the U.S. intervention since the Yazidis plight gained attention. British forces are coordinating aid drops with the U.S. and more broadly, trying to figure out how to help the refugees escape from “a completely unacceptable situation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion, with roots in Zoroastrianism, which the Islamic State group considers heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group also considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, and has demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded north, west and south from their stronghold in Mosul to capture Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir, and occupy Sunni-majority towns almost to Baghdad. They now hold large parts of western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria. Iraqi government forces have prevented the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas in the south, while Kurds have defended the north.

Ethnic and religious minorities fearing slaughter have fled. The U.N. said more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday demonstrating their conquests, including government offices in Kurdish Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. Militants are seen insulting Kurdish President Massoud Barzani by beating his picture with their shoes and slippers.

The group also claimed responsibility for some of the more than 100 deaths in bombings this week in Baghdad, where a police official said Saturday that nine people were found handcuffed and shot to death in different parts of the city. Morgue officials confirmed the information. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief the media.

Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form.

Sunnis in Iraq and Syria have “felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate,” Obama said. “Rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.”

Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad; Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Iraq; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Darlene Superville in Washington and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

KHAZER CAMP, Iraq (AP) — President Barack Obama justified the U.S. military’s return to fighting in Iraq Saturday by saying America must act now to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border.

“This is going to be a long-term project” that won’t end and can’t succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad capable of keeping the country from breaking apart, Obama said at the White House.

Obama spoke after airstrikes from U.S. fighter jets and a drone killed several small groups of Islamic State extremists that were attacking Kurdish forces and refugees. The military support helped clear the way for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees.

But the help comes too late for many of the religious minorities targeted for elimination by the Islamic State group, which swept past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces in recent weeks and now controls much of Iraq.

A delayed response by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad left Kurdish forces struggling to contain the Sunni extremists’ advances. With nowhere to go but uphill, Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees sought shelter in the mile-high Sinjar mountains, where their ancient religion holds that Noah’s ark came to rest.

U.S., Iraqi and British cargo planes dropped tons of food, water, tents and other equipment to the refugees Friday and Saturday. Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing people in the Sinjar mountains rushing to collect food and water as the Iraqi government’s fleet of C130 cargo planes dropped 20 tons of aid at a time.

But at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

British officials estimated Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain.

And Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told the AP that more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border, braving gunfire through a tenuous “safe passage” that Kurdish peshmerga forces are trying to protect.

Some women lost their children along the way because of exhaustion and fear, and at least nine Kurdish fighters were killed while defending the columns of refugees, Mohammed said.

“They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind” in Iraq, Mohammed said. Without significant help soon, those who haven’t crossed yet “will be subjected to genocide.”

The U.S. military officially withdrew its combat forces in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. It returned to battle Friday when the two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on Islamic State fighters outside Irbil.

Gen. Ahmed, the peshmerga spokesman at the Khazer checkpoint on the frontline outside Irbil, said it was a “good hit,” but the impact wasn’t yet clear. The Kurdish general spoke on condition his last name not be used.

Obama was adamant Saturday that that U.S. troops can’t bring peace to Iraq.

“We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,” he said.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited until Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighters trying to contain the Islamic State’s advance. It was his government’s first show of cooperation with the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell to the extremists in June.

And so Kurdish officials were particularly pleased by the return of U.S. air support as well as the military trainers coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.

Many of America’s allies have backed the U.S. intervention since the Yazidis plight gained attention. British forces are coordinating aid drops with the U.S. and more broadly, trying to figure out how to help the refugees escape from “a completely unacceptable situation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion, with roots in Zoroastrianism, which the Islamic State group considers heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group also considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, and has demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded north, west and south from their stronghold in Mosul to capture Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir, and occupy Sunni-majority towns almost to Baghdad. They now hold large parts of western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria. Iraqi government forces have prevented the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas in the south, while Kurds have defended the north.

Ethnic and religious minorities fearing slaughter have fled. The U.N. said more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday demonstrating their conquests, including government offices in Kurdish Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. Militants are seen insulting Kurdish President Massoud Barzani by beating his picture with their shoes and slippers.

The group also claimed responsibility for some of the more than 100 deaths in bombings this week in Baghdad, where a police official said Saturday that nine people were found handcuffed and shot to death in different parts of the city. Morgue officials confirmed the information. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief the media.

Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form.

Sunnis in Iraq and Syria have “felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate,” Obama said. “Rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.”

Associated Press writers Vivian Salama and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad; Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Iraq; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Darlene Superville in Washington and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

KHAZER CAMP, Iraq (AP) — President Barack Obama justified the U.S. military’s return to fighting in Iraq Saturday by saying America must act now to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border.

“This is going to be a long-term project” that won’t end and can’t succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad capable of keeping the country from breaking apart, Obama said at the White House.

Obama spoke after airstrikes from U.S. fighter jets and a drone killed several small groups of Islamic State extremists that were attacking Kurdish forces and refugees. The military support helped clear the way for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees.

But the help comes too late for many of the religious minorities targeted for elimination by the Islamic State group, which swept past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces in recent weeks and now controls much of Iraq.

A delayed response by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad left Kurdish forces struggling to contain the Sunni extremists’ advances. With nowhere to go but uphill, Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees sought shelter in the mile-high Sinjar mountains, where their ancient religion holds that Noah’s ark came to rest.

U.S., Iraqi and British cargo planes dropped tons of food, water, tents and other equipment to the refugees Friday and Saturday. Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing people in the Sinjar mountains rushing to collect food and water as the Iraqi government’s fleet of C130 cargo planes dropped 20 tons of aid at a time.

But at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

British officials estimated Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain.

And Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told the AP that more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border, braving gunfire through a tenuous “safe passage” that Kurdish peshmerga forces are trying to protect.

Some women lost their children along the way because of exhaustion and fear, and at least nine Kurdish fighters were killed while defending the columns of refugees, Mohammed said.

“They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind” in Iraq, Mohammed said. Without significant help soon, those who haven’t crossed yet “will be subjected to genocide.”

The U.S. military officially withdrew its combat forces in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. It returned to battle Friday when the two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on Islamic State fighters outside Irbil.

Gen. Ahmed, the peshmerga spokesman at the Khazer checkpoint on the frontline outside Irbil, said it was a “good hit,” but the impact wasn’t yet clear. The Kurdish general spoke on condition his last name not be used.

Obama was adamant Saturday that that U.S. troops can’t bring peace to Iraq.

“We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,” he said.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited until Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighters trying to contain the Islamic State’s advance. It was his government’s first show of cooperation with the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell to the extremists in June.

And so Kurdish officials were particularly pleased by the return of U.S. air support as well as the military trainers coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.

Many of America’s allies have backed the U.S. intervention since the Yazidis plight gained attention. British forces are coordinating aid drops with the U.S. and more broadly, trying to figure out how to help the refugees escape from “a completely unacceptable situation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion, with roots in Zoroastrianism, which the Islamic State group considers heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group also considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, and has demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded north, west and south from their stronghold in Mosul to capture Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir, and occupy Sunni-majority towns almost to Baghdad. They now hold large parts of western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria. Iraqi government forces have prevented the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas in the south, while Kurds have defended the north.

Ethnic and religious minorities fearing slaughter have fled. The U.N. said more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday demonstrating their conquests, including government offices in Kurdish Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. Militants are seen insulting Kurdish President Massoud Barzani by beating his picture with their shoes and slippers.

The group also claimed responsibility for some of the more than 100 deaths in bombings this week in Baghdad, where a police official said Saturday that nine people were found handcuffed and shot to death in different parts of the city. Morgue officials confirmed the information. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief the media.

Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form.

Sunnis in Iraq and Syria have “felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate,” Obama said. “Rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.”

Associated Press writers Vivian Salama and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad; Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Iraq; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Darlene Superville in Washington and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

KHAZER CAMP, Iraq (AP) — President Barack Obama justified the U.S. military’s return to fighting in Iraq Saturday by saying America must act now to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border.

“This is going to be a long-term project” that won’t end and can’t succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad capable of keeping the country from breaking apart, Obama said at the White House.

Obama spoke after airstrikes from U.S. fighter jets and a drone killed several small groups of Islamic State extremists that were attacking Kurdish forces and refugees. The military support helped clear the way for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees.

But the help comes too late for many of the religious minorities targeted for elimination by the Islamic State group, which swept past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces in recent weeks and now controls much of Iraq.

A delayed response by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad left Kurdish forces struggling to contain the Sunni extremists’ advances. With nowhere to go but uphill, Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees sought shelter in the mile-high Sinjar mountains, where their ancient religion holds that Noah’s ark came to rest.

U.S., Iraqi and British cargo planes dropped tons of food, water, tents and other equipment to the refugees Friday and Saturday. Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing people in the Sinjar mountains rushing to collect food and water as the Iraqi government’s fleet of C130 cargo planes dropped 20 tons of aid at a time.

But at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

British officials estimated Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain.

And Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told the AP that more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border, braving gunfire through a tenuous “safe passage” that Kurdish peshmerga forces are trying to protect.

Some women lost their children along the way because of exhaustion and fear, and at least nine Kurdish fighters were killed while defending the columns of refugees, Mohammed said.

“They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind” in Iraq, Mohammed said. Without significant help soon, those who haven’t crossed yet “will be subjected to genocide.”

The U.S. military officially withdrew its combat forces in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. It returned to battle Friday when the two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on Islamic State fighters outside Irbil.

Gen. Ahmed, the peshmerga spokesman at the Khazer checkpoint on the frontline outside Irbil, said it was a “good hit,” but the impact wasn’t yet clear. The Kurdish general spoke on condition his last name not be used.

Obama was adamant Saturday that that U.S. troops can’t bring peace to Iraq.

“We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,” he said.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited until Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighters trying to contain the Islamic State’s advance. It was his government’s first show of cooperation with the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell to the extremists in June.

And so Kurdish officials were particularly pleased by the return of U.S. air support as well as the military trainers coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.

Many of America’s allies have backed the U.S. intervention since the Yazidis plight gained attention. British forces are coordinating aid drops with the U.S. and more broadly, trying to figure out how to help the refugees escape from “a completely unacceptable situation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion, with roots in Zoroastrianism, which the Islamic State group considers heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group also considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, and has demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded north, west and south from their stronghold in Mosul to capture Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. They also pushed southward through Sunni-majority towns almost to Baghdad, and now hold large parts of western Iraq as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Ethnic and religious minorities fearing slaughter have fled. The U.N. said more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

Iraqi government forces initially crumbled, but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday demonstrating their conquests, including government offices in Kurdish Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. Militants are seen insulting Kurdish President Massoud Barzani by beating his picture with their shoes and slippers.

Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form.

Sunnis in Iraq and Syria have “felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate,” Obama said. “Rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.”

Associated Press writers Vivian Salama and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad; Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Iraq; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Darlene Superville in Washington and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi central government followed U.S. forces in delivering massive amounts of aid Saturday to refugees stranded high in the Sinjar mountains after they escaped a Sunni militant takeover of their towns, and President Barack Obama warned Americans that the renewed U.S. military campaign in Iraq will be “a long-term project.”

Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing a fleet of C130 cargo planes, each carrying 20 tons of foodstuffs and water, dropping the aid to people in the mountains earlier Saturday. The video shows aerial views of hundreds of cars on top of the mountain and men rushing to collect the deliveries.

President Barack Obama wouldn’t say Saturday just how long the U.S. military involvement would last. He said it depends on the Iraqi government’s sincerity in bringing feuding political parties and sectarian groups together to combat the crisis.

“I don’t think we are going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said. He described the militant takeover of large parts of Iraq as “a wake-up call for a lot of Iraqis inside of Baghdad” who must cooperate to keep their country from breaking up.

The U.S. military, which officially withdrew its combat forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle Friday when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

A second round of airstrikes by four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy, and unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher near Irbil, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly.

American planes dropped food and water on Friday and Saturday for those trapped in the Sinjar mountains, said Pentagon chief spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called upon his air force on Monday to provide aerial reinforcements to Kurdish fighters on the front lines of battle against the Islamic State militants. This was the first show of cooperation between the central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since the fall of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in June.

But Kurdish officials were particularly pleased that U.S. forces were back in earnest. Their regional government said that American military were coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Kurdish capital, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said the U.S. strikes were making a difference.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, Zebari said late Friday.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The first British cargo planes carrying emergency supplies including drinking water and tents have also left for Iraq and will begin dropping aid in the northwest region “imminently,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said Saturday.

“We can expect a continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations working in coordination with the U.S and potentially with others as well,” Hammond said. “But more widely we are looking at how to support this group of people and get them off that mountain, how we are going to facilitate their exit from what is a completely unacceptable situation.”

Yazidis belong to ancient religion that the Islamic State group considers to be heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded from their stronghold in Mosul to capture a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. They pushed southward, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, and now hold large parts of western Iraq as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers. According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

Iraqi government forces initially crumbled in the face of the assaults but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense, but their fighters are stretched over a long front.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday showing evidence of their recent conquests, including government offices in Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. The video also shows militants beating a large picture of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani with their shoes and slippers.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air followed a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

But Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Bram Janssen in Irbil, Sylvia Hui and Danica Kirka in London, Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi central government followed U.S. forces in delivering massive amounts of aid Saturday to refugees stranded high in the Sinjar mountains after they escaped a Sunni militant takeover of their towns, and President Barack Obama warned Americans that the renewed U.S. military campaign in Iraq will be “a long-term project.”

Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing a fleet of C130 cargo planes, each carrying 20 tons of foodstuffs and water, dropping the aid to people in the mountains earlier Saturday. The video shows aerial views of hundreds of cars on top of the mountain and men rushing to collect the deliveries.

President Barack Obama wouldn’t say Saturday just how long the U.S. military involvement would last. He said it depends on the Iraqi government’s sincerity in bringing feuding political parties and sectarian groups together to combat the crisis.

“I don’t think we are going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said. He described the militant takeover of large parts of Iraq as “a wake-up call for a lot of Iraqis inside of Baghdad” who must cooperate to keep their country from breaking up.

The U.S. military, which officially withdrew its combat forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle Friday when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

A second round of airstrikes by four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy, and unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher near Irbil, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly.

American planes dropped food and water on Friday and Saturday for those trapped in the Sinjar mountains, said Pentagon chief spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called upon his air force on Monday to provide aerial reinforcements to Kurdish fighters on the front lines of battle against the Islamic State militants. This was the first show of cooperation between the central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since the fall of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in June.

But Kurdish officials were particularly pleased that U.S. forces were back in earnest. Their regional government said that American military were coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Kurdish capital, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said the U.S. strikes were making a difference.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, Zebari said late Friday.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The first British cargo planes carrying emergency supplies including drinking water and tents have also left for Iraq and will begin dropping aid in the northwest region “imminently,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said Saturday.

“We can expect a continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations working in coordination with the U.S and potentially with others as well,” Hammond said. “But more widely we are looking at how to support this group of people and get them off that mountain, how we are going to facilitate their exit from what is a completely unacceptable situation.”

Yazidis belong to ancient religion that the Islamic State group considers to be heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded from their stronghold in Mosul to capture a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. They pushed southward, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, and now hold large parts of western Iraq as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers. According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

Iraqi government forces initially crumbled in the face of the assaults but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense, but their fighters are stretched over a long front.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday showing evidence of their recent conquests, including government offices in Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. The video also shows militants beating a large picture of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani with their shoes and slippers.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air followed a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

But Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Bram Janssen in Irbil, Sylvia Hui and Danica Kirka in London, Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi central government followed U.S. forces in delivering massive amounts of aid Saturday to refugees stranded high in the Sinjar mountains after they escaped a Sunni militant takeover of their towns, and President Barack Obama warned Americans that the renewed U.S. military campaign in Iraq will be “a long-term project.”

Iraq’s defense ministry released a video showing a fleet of C130 cargo planes, each carrying 20 tons of foodstuffs and water, dropping the aid to people in the mountains earlier Saturday. The video shows aerial views of hundreds of cars on top of the mountain and men rushing to collect the deliveries.

President Barack Obama wouldn’t say Saturday just how long the U.S. military involvement would last. He said it depends on the Iraqi government’s sincerity in bringing feuding political parties and sectarian groups together to combat the crisis.

“I don’t think we are going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said. He described the militant takeover of large parts of Iraq as “a wake-up call for a lot of Iraqis inside of Baghdad” who must cooperate to keep their country from breaking up.

The U.S. military, which officially withdrew its combat forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle Friday when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

A second round of airstrikes by four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy, and unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher near Irbil, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly.

American planes dropped food and water on Friday and Saturday for those trapped in the Sinjar mountains, said Pentagon chief spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called upon his air force on Monday to provide aerial reinforcements to Kurdish fighters on the front lines of battle against the Islamic State militants. This was the first show of cooperation between the central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government since the fall of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in June.

But Kurdish officials were particularly pleased that U.S. forces were back in earnest. Their regional government said that American military were coordinating tactical responses with Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Kurdish capital, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said the U.S. strikes were making a difference.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective, Zebari said late Friday.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The first British cargo planes carrying emergency supplies including drinking water and tents have also left for Iraq and will begin dropping aid in the northwest region “imminently,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said Saturday.

“We can expect a continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations working in coordination with the U.S and potentially with others as well,” Hammond said. “But more widely we are looking at how to support this group of people and get them off that mountain, how we are going to facilitate their exit from what is a completely unacceptable situation.”

Yazidis belong to ancient religion that the Islamic State group considers to be heretical and has vowed to destroy. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Hundreds of Yazidi women have been seized by the militants, and their families say some were being held in schools in Mosul, said Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press.

The militants have expanded from their stronghold in Mosul to capture a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. They pushed southward, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, and now hold large parts of western Iraq as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers. According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing this year’s total to well over 1 million.

Iraqi government forces initially crumbled in the face of the assaults but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense, but their fighters are stretched over a long front.

The Islamic State group posted a video online Saturday showing evidence of their recent conquests, including government offices in Sinjar and the Mosul Dam, which fell to the militants on Thursday. The video also shows militants beating a large picture of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani with their shoes and slippers.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air followed a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

But Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Diaa Hadid in Dahuk, Bram Janssen in Irbil, Sylvia Hui and Danica Kirka in London, Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — The U.S. launched a new airdrop Saturday to aid thousands of members of an Iraqi minority group who fled from Islamic extremists, as Iraq’s foreign minister said U.S. airstrikes have helped Kurdish forces counter the militants’ advance.

An American military team is currently in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil, working to ensure tactical coordination with Kurdish peshmerga forces, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a press conference late Friday.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective,” Zebari, a Kurd, said.

The airstrikes marked the first time U.S. forces have directly targeted the Islamic State group and the first tentative military engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern towns and villages in recent days.

Yazidis belong to ancient religion seen by the Islamic State group as heretical. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

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.

Escorted by two Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees, including more than 28,000 meals and more than 1,500 gallons of water, said Kirby, who spoke from New Delhi during a trip with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry meanwhile said hundreds of Yazidi women had been seized by the militants. Citing reports from the victims’ families, he said some of the women were being held in schools in Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State group in June.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Kamil Amin told The Associated Press.

The U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil on Friday.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which is home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Later Friday, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes near Irbil, U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy while unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher.

Expanding from their stronghold of Mosul, the militants have captured a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers.

According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing the total this year to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group captured Mosul in June, and then launched a blitz toward the south, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to the capital, Baghdad. It already holds large parts of western Iraq, as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Iraqi government forces crumbled in the face of the assault but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense against the radicals, but their fighters are stretched over a long front trying to fend them off.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation, as Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air announced their decisions after a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Danica Kirka in London, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama in Baghdad, and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — The U.S. launched a new airdrop Saturday to aid thousands of members of an Iraqi minority group who fled from Islamic extremists, as Iraq’s foreign minister said U.S. airstrikes have helped Kurdish forces counter the militants’ advance.

An American military team is currently in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil, working to ensure tactical coordination with Kurdish peshmerga forces, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a press conference late Friday.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective,” Zebari, a Kurd, said.

The airstrikes marked the first time U.S. forces have directly targeted the Islamic State group and the first tentative military engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern towns and villages in recent days.

Yazidis belong to ancient religion seen by the Islamic State group as heretical. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

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.

Escorted by two Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees, including more than 28,000 meals and more than 1,500 gallons of water, said Kirby, who spoke from New Delhi during a trip with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry meanwhile said hundreds of Yazidi women had been seized by the militants. Citing reports from the victims’ families, he said some of the women were being held in schools in Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State group in June.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Kamil Amin told The Associated Press.

The U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil on Friday.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which is home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Later Friday, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes near Irbil, U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy while unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher.

Expanding from their stronghold of Mosul, the militants have captured a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers.

According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing the total this year to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group captured Mosul in June, and then launched a blitz toward the south, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to the capital, Baghdad. It already holds large parts of western Iraq, as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Iraqi government forces crumbled in the face of the assault but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense against the radicals, but their fighters are stretched over a long front trying to fend them off.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation, as Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air announced their decisions after a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Danica Kirka in London, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama in Baghdad, and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — The U.S. launched a new airdrop Saturday to aid thousands of members of an Iraqi minority group who fled from Islamic extremists, as Iraq’s foreign minister said U.S. airstrikes have helped Kurdish forces counter the militants’ advance.

An American military team is currently in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil, working to ensure tactical coordination with Kurdish peshmerga forces, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a press conference late Friday.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective,” Zebari, a Kurd, said.

The airstrikes marked the first time U.S. forces have directly targeted the Islamic State group and the first tentative military engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern towns and villages in recent days.

Yazidis belong to ancient religion seen by the Islamic State group as heretical. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

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.

Escorted by two Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees, including more than 28,000 meals and more than 1,500 gallons of water, said Kirby, who spoke from New Delhi during a trip with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry meanwhile said hundreds of Yazidi women had been seized by the militants. Citing reports from the victims’ families, he said some of the women were being held in schools in Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State group in June.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Kamil Amin told The Associated Press.

The U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil on Friday.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which is home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Later Friday, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes near Irbil, U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy while unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher.

Expanding from their stronghold of Mosul, the militants have captured a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers.

According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing the total this year to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group captured Mosul in June, and then launched a blitz toward the south, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to the capital, Baghdad. It already holds large parts of western Iraq, as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Iraqi government forces crumbled in the face of the assault but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense against the radicals, but their fighters are stretched over a long front trying to fend them off.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation, as Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air announced their decisions after a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Danica Kirka in London, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama in Baghdad, and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — The U.S. launched a new airdrop Saturday to aid thousands of members of an Iraqi minority group who fled from Islamic extremists, as Iraq’s foreign minister said U.S. airstrikes have helped Kurdish forces counter the militants’ advance.

An American military team is currently in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil, working to ensure tactical coordination with Kurdish peshmerga forces, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a press conference late Friday.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective,” Zebari, a Kurd, said.

The airstrikes marked the first time U.S. forces have directly targeted the Islamic State group and the first tentative military engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern towns and villages in recent days.

Yazidis belong to ancient religion seen by the Islamic State group as heretical. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

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.

Escorted by two Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees, including more than 28,000 meals and more than 1,500 gallons of water, said Kirby, who spoke from New Delhi during a trip with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry meanwhile said hundreds of Yazidi women had been seized by the militants. Citing reports from the victims’ families, he said some of the women were being held in schools in Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State group in June.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Kamil Amin told The Associated Press.

The U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil on Friday.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which is home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Later Friday, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes near Irbil, U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy while unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher.

Expanding from their stronghold of Mosul, the militants have captured a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers.

According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing the total this year to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group captured Mosul in June, and then launched a blitz toward the south, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to the capital, Baghdad. It already holds large parts of western Iraq, as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Iraqi government forces crumbled in the face of the assault but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense against the radicals, but their fighters are stretched over a long front trying to fend them off.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation, as Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air announced their decisions after a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Danica Kirka in London, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama in Baghdad, and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.

US aids displaced Iraqis as airstrikes help Kurds

KDWN

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — The U.S. launched a new airdrop Saturday to aid thousands of members of an Iraqi minority group who fled from Islamic extremists, as Iraq’s foreign minister said U.S. airstrikes have helped Kurdish forces counter the militants’ advance.

An American military team is currently in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil, working to ensure tactical coordination with Kurdish peshmerga forces, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a press conference late Friday.

“Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective,” Zebari, a Kurd, said.

The airstrikes marked the first time U.S. forces have directly targeted the Islamic State group and the first tentative military engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

Many of America’s allies backed the U.S. intervention, pledging urgent steps to assist the legions of refugees and displaced people. Those in jeopardy included thousands of members of the Yazidi minority whose plight – trapped on a mountaintop by the militants – prompted the U.S. to airdrop dozens of crates of food and water.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern towns and villages in recent days.

Yazidis belong to ancient religion seen by the Islamic State group as heretical. The extremist group considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

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.

Escorted by two Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees, including more than 28,000 meals and more than 1,500 gallons of water, said Kirby, who spoke from New Delhi during a trip with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry meanwhile said hundreds of Yazidi women had been seized by the militants. Citing reports from the victims’ families, he said some of the women were being held in schools in Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State group in June.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Kamil Amin told The Associated Press.

The U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, returned to battle when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Irbil on Friday.

The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which is home to a U.S. consulate and about three dozen U.S. military trainers.

Later Friday, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes near Irbil, U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy while unmanned aircraft hit a mortar launcher.

Expanding from their stronghold of Mosul, the militants have captured a string of towns and Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled in growing numbers.

According to the U.N., more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing the total this year to well over 1 million.

The Islamic State group captured Mosul in June, and then launched a blitz toward the south, sweeping over Sunni-majority towns almost to the capital, Baghdad. It already holds large parts of western Iraq, as well as swaths of neighboring Syria.

Iraqi government forces crumbled in the face of the assault but have since been able to prevent the militants from advancing into Shiite-majority areas. In the north, the Kurds have been the main line of defense against the radicals, but their fighters are stretched over a long front trying to fend them off.

Two Gulf-based airlines said Saturday they have re-routed flights over Iraq because of the deteriorating security situation, as Turkish Airlines said it has resumed flights to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air announced their decisions after a similar move by Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier. On Friday the Obama administration ordered U.S. airlines not to fly over Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government released a statement Saturday saying that militants have been unable to target oil operations in the Kurdish region, and that production remains unaffected by the current crisis.

Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Josh Lederman in Washington, Danica Kirka in London, Caleb Jones in New York, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama in Baghdad, and Lolita C. Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.