Iraq's outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki paid an unexpected visit to the town of Amerli on Monday, following its liberation from the Islamic State militants over the weekend, and warned in televised remarks that "Iraq will be a graveyard" for insurgents.
In his speech aired on state television, Maliki also praised residents for their resilience against the "terrorists" and lauded the fighters for their "steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers."
Hours before Maliki's arrival, multiple air-drops and truckloads of humanitarian supplies had begun to pour much-needed resources back into Amerli following a two month-long siege.
On Monday, four trucks filled with food and medicine dispatched by the Iraqi government and Iraqi Red Crescent arrived into the town where 15,000 Shiite Turkmen had been stranded for weeks with little or no running water and electricity, according to a local NGO official.
"The situation is getting back to normal, but gradually," Ali al-Bayati who runs the Turkmen Saving Foundation told the Associated Press. "Some people have come out from their houses and walk in the street. Shops are still closed, but people are happy to see their city secured by Iraqi security forces."
The U.S Air Force conducted a humanitarian air-drop on August 31 to relieve a two-month siege by Islamic State militants on the Eastern Iraqi town of Amerli. Footage from the U.S Airforce shows the moments leading up, during, and following the air-drop which reportedly contained over 10,000 gallons of drinking water.
Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militia and Kurdish fighters say they reclaimed the northern farming town around mid-day Sunday from Islamic State fighters, after an operation that began at dawn. US airstrikes on Sunni militant positions over the weekend assisted the Iraqi forces in breaking the siege.
Australian, French, British, and American planes also provided aid drops over the weekend to relieve residents who had entrenched themselves in the town, located roughly 100 miles north of Baghdad, since June when the IS began its widespread assault across northern and western Iraq.
Instead of fleeing the Sunni militants, who regard the Shiite Turkmen as apostates, Amerli residents chose to stay and fight, managing at first to successfully defend the town against initial attacks. They then became trapped behind their makeshift trenches and fortified posts as militants encircled the town.
Iraqi security forces have struggled against the growing insurgency waged by the Islamic State, which has seized large swathes of land in recent weeks, including the key strategic cities of Mosul and Tikrit.
The amy's success in Amerli is a "big achievement and an important victory," Army spokesman Lieutenant General Qassim al-Moussawi said on state TV Sunday.
The Iraqi military released video on August 30 that it said shows the evacuation of women, children, and the elderly from Amerli.
The US has been launching limited airstrikes against Islamic State positions using military craft and unmanned drones since early August. At least 120 US airstrikes have been carried out so far, mostly in support of Kurdish fighters who are battling the Islamic State militants in the north, and to support trapped members of the Yazidi community, a Kurdish ethno-religious minority, in the northwestern region of Mount Sinjar.
Thousands have died as a result of the Islamic State's increasingly violent campaign in recent months. At least 1,420 Iraqis were killed in August alone, according to figures released by the UN on Monday.
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