News / Middle East

Iraqi Forces Break Siege of Northern Town

  • Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen patrol in Amirli, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Shi'ite volunteers carry their weapons during an intensive security deployment to fight against militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Members of the Kurdish Peshmerga force man their position at Sulaiman Pek front line in the northwest of Tikrit city, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Shi'ite volunteers are seen with their weapons during an intensive security deployment to fight against militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Mourners carry the coffins of Iraqi Shi'ite volunteers, who were killed during clashes with militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Amerli, during a funeral in Khalis, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Shiite militiamen patrol in Amirli, Iraq, after breaking a siege by the Islamic State extremist group on the town, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Baghdad, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Shiite militiamen patrol in Amirli, 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • A general view of road sign and a road in Sulaiman Pek in Salahuddin province, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • The wreckage of a Humvee belonging to Islamic State militants lies along a road after it was targeted by Iraqi security forces and Iraqi Shi'ite volunteers, in the town of Sulaiman Pek in Salahuddin province, Aug. 31, 2014.
  • A member of the Kurdish Peshmerga force fires a dushka at Sulaiman Pek front line in the northwest of Tikrit city, Aug. 31, 2014.
Developments in Iraq, Sunday, Aug. 31
VOA News

Iraqi officials said their forces have ended a siege by Islamic militants on the northern town of Amerli, where thousands of people have been trapped for over two months with dwindling food, water and medical supplies.

Lieutenant General Qassim al-Moussawi said that Iraqi forces along with Shi'ite militiamen entered the town around midday Sunday. 

"The Iraqi troops were able to enter the town of Amerli," Moussawi said. "And the military operations of clearing villages around Amerli are still going on. The battles are still continuing as our forces are advancing forward."

The battle was hailed as a huge strategic victory for the Iraqi security forces and the militia fighters who joined them after a summer that saw the Islamic State lead other Sunni armed groups in seizing almost one-third of the country's territory.

Military spokesman Qassim al-Atta described Amerli as a launching pad to retake the northern province of Salahuddin, including its capital, which was captured by Islamic State militants in June.

Airstrikes, aid drop

The U.S. Defense Department said the United States conducted airstrikes Saturday against the Islamic State militants around Amerli and dropped humanitarian aid to those trapped in the town.  

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said  in a statement the U.S. Air Force delivered the aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and Britain.

Kirby said the U.S. military conducted coordinated airstrikes against nearby Islamic State terrorists to support the humanitarian assistance operation.

In other developments Sunday, two suicide bombers detonated vehicles rigged with explosives near security positions in the western city of Ramadi, killing at least 13 people.

Australia said it is joining the international effort to supply weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State militants.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday the situation in Iraq is a "humanitarian catastrophe."

He said Australia will continue to work with international partners to "address the security threat" posed by the militants.

NATO summit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington will use a NATO summit later this week to push for a coalition of countries to fight the Sunni extremists.

Kerry, writing in the New York Times on Saturday, called the Islamic State militancy a "cancer," and he vowed "it will not be allowed to spread to other countries."

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein suggested President Barack Obama is moving too slowly in developing a strategy to combat Islamic State.

"I've learned one thing about this president, and that is he is very cautious.  Maybe, in this instance, too cautious," Feinstein said on NBC's Meet the Press.

Feinstein said the U.S. should work with other countries threatened by the militants.

"Hopefully those plans will coalesce into a strategy that will encourage that coalition from Arab nations - you know, Jordan's at jeopardy, Lebanon's at jeopardy, the UAE and other countries are in jeopardy," Feinstein said. "So there is good reason for people to come together now and begin to approach this as the very real threat that it in fact is."

Saudi response

Separately, in comments published early Saturday, Saudi King Abdullah warned that Islamic State extremists could target Europe and the United States, if the West fails to agree on a strong response to the militancy. 

Official Saudi media quoted the king as saying the "terrorists do not know the name of humanity, and you have witnessed them severing heads and giving them to children to walk with in the street."

Public outrage over the beheading of an American journalist and several mass executions claimed by militants in nearby Syria has led President Obama to consider strikes on militant targets in eastern Syria.

Kerry said he and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will seek support at the September 5 NATO summit in Wales for "the broadest possible assistance" in acting against the militancy.

The two Americans then will visit Middle East capitals to solidify support from countries directly threatened by the extremist movement.

German jihadists

Elsewhere, Germany's domestic intelligence chief said Sunday young Muslims are attracted to the Islamic fighters in Iraq and Syria because of the group's brutality, radicalism and rigor.  

Hans-Georg Maassen told Deutschlandfunk radio at least 400 Germans have joined the Islamic fighters and there is evidence at least five have carried out suicide attacks for the insurgents.

Sunday the German government is to decide whether to send military aid to the Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State forces in Iraq.

Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: meanbill from: USA
September 01, 2014 6:11 PM
CRAZY isn't it?... The Saudi Arabian king of the nation of Wahhabi Sunni Muslims, that beheads, and kills, and cuts hands off, of criminals under Islamic law, (condemns), what the (ISIL) al-Baghdadi Sunni Muslim ultra-extremist army does to their captured war prisoners, (that's just like), what the Prophet Muhammad did to captured prisoners, when he spread the Islamic religion by the sword?.... Crazy isn't it?

by: Mr A from: new york
August 31, 2014 11:41 AM
Up to 400 German Jihadist are recruited and they are fighting in Iraq. still all Europe and USA and Canada have not look for Muslim communities which they actively spread hate message and used this hate message to set stage to brain washing mentally ill whom they blame the society for all the problem they encounter. In the video which published in New York times, it is about a Canadian who urged other people for jihad . he indicated in his video that his tax money is used to kill Muslim and Muslim has an obligation to fight back. This mentally person is used to kill innocent people and used the most barbaric means of killing to kill . the fact the west has no problem with Islam .the fact Islam has a problem for every body. Islam has created catastrophe for south Sudan which these people has no involvement for any hostility what so ever. in Pakistan minority suffered the one of the worst prosecution . similar situation in Iraq and Egypt. The Islamic communities in Western nation have betrayal the countries they live and acting against everybody by giving money and ask individual to be jihadist

by: RobertMorris from: USA
August 31, 2014 10:42 AM
Did the Iraqi army break through or was it, once again, the Kurds. Big difference. And will the aid go TO the Kurds for use in fighting off the Islamist extremists or will it go to Baghdad FOR the Kurds - which means they are unlikely to ever see it and it is more likely to end up being used against them.

by: Solid Oak from: NY
August 31, 2014 8:34 AM
King Abdullah: "If the west fails to agree on a strong response....". With Saudi's Trillions of dollars sitting in European Banks and huge arsenal of Weaponry (50 Billion Dollars of military budget a year) that is sitting idle; and he is waiting for a European response. I would like to know What is King Abdullah's response, can some one help me figure that out?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs