The US on Saturday launched a new airdrop to aid thousands of members of an Iraqi minority group who fled from Islamic extremists, as Iraq's foreign minister said US 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 yesterday. "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 US 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 US 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 US 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 on 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 US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.