Kirkuk (Iraq) (AFP) - Iraq was massing Forces Wednesday for an operation to break a two-month jihadist siege of a Shiite Turkmen town north of Baghdad, amid growing fears for residents short of supplies.
According to a civilian volunteer commander, thousands of Shiite militiamen from groups including Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organisation are gathering in the Tuz Khurmatu area, north of Amerli, in preparation for a battle to break the siege.The planned counter-offensive around the Salaheddin province town of Amerli comes amid reports that US President Barack Obama is weighing a decision to authorise air strikes and aid drops in the area to help thousands of trapped civilians.
And an army lieutenant general said that security forces were mobilising in the Jabal Hamreen area, south of Amerli, to launch an attack.
Iraqi aircraft have begun targeting positions of Islamic State (IS) jihadists around the town, carrying out nine strikes on Tuesday, an officer said.
Time is running out for the town's residents, who face danger both because of their Shiite faith, which jihadists consider heresy, and their resistance against the militants, which has drawn deadly retribution elsewhere.
There is "no possibility of evacuating them so far", and only limited humanitarian assistance is reaching the town, said Eliana Nabaa, spokeswoman for the UN mission in Iraq.
UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov has called for an urgent effort to help Amerli, saying residents face a "possible massacre" if the town is overrun.