U.S. aircraft drop aid for second night in Iraq

U.S. military aircraft dropped containers with water and tens of thousands of meals to civilians in north of Iraq

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U.S. military aircraft dropped humanitarian aid to Iraqis under threat from hardline militants in northern Iraq for the second straight night, Reuters reported the Pentagon as saying on Friday.

“This airdrop was conducted from multiple airbases within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and as with last night, included one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together dropped a total of 72 bundles of supplies,” the Pentagon said in a statement released late on Friday.

The cargo planes were accompanied by two F-18 fighter jets from the USS George H.W. Bush, a U.S. aircraft carrier positioned in the Gulf, it said.

Late on Friday, U.S. forces also launched a second wave of air strikes near the Kurdish Erbil, destroying a militant convoy and two mortar teams.

The strikes come hours after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control of Iraq’s largest dam north of their hub of Mosul, giving them control over the supply of water and electricity in a vast area, officials said on Friday.

‘Unprecedented’ Baghdad-Erbil cooperation

ISIS’ territorial gains have pushed Baghdad to provide a planeload of ammunition to Peshmerga fighters from Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region on Friday in an “unprecedented” move, a U.S. official said Friday.

The U.S. official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said Iraqi security forces flew a C-130 cargo plane loaded with mostly small-arms ammunition to Erbil, in a move that American officials hope will help the region’s Peshmerga fighters keep militants from the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, at bay.

“This is unprecedented,” he said, adding “developments over the last few days have refocused the issue, and we’ve seen unprecedented cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil in terms of going after (ISIS), not only in terms of conversation but in terms of actual support.”

The hardline fighters now appear set on trying to take the Kurdish capital.

The grave threat to Erbil, seat of the regional government and a hub for foreign firms in Iraq, appears to have at least temporarily eased a long-running feud between leaders of the Kurdistan region, who have long dreamed of an independent state, and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Arab who has sparred with Kurds over land and oil.

The delivery of ammunition on Friday is sure to be welcome for Kurdish officials who for weeks have complained the Peshmerga, whose name means "those who face death," were overstretched and underequipped against the Islamist fighters, who have weapons seized from Iraqi army bases.

Both steps are significant in a country where in recent years Peshmerga and Iraqi forces under the command of Baghdad have been much closer to fighting each another than to cooperating.

(With Reuters)

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