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Islamic State Suffers Rare Defeat In Amerli


In Iraq, radical Sunni fighters calling themselves the Islamic State or ISIS have suffered a rare defeat. Iraqi and Kurdish forces broke a nearly 80-day siege on the town of Amerli, where residents have enough food and water today for the first time in weeks. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Erbil that the victory showed the kind of cooperative effort some analysts believe could reverse the Islamic State's gains of recent months.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: After weeks of rationing food and drinking unsafe well water, the Shiite Turkmen of Amerli fired their guns in the air today in celebration as the Islamic State seat was broken and Iraqi and Kurdish forces moved into the town. Their rescuers were an unusual coalition of Iraqi army units, Shiite militias and Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by U.S. airstrikes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

KENYON: Kurdish television showed Peshmerga forces attacking Islamic State positions outside Amerli. And 42-year-old teacher Mohammed Faras (ph), reached by phone, said, it was the first good day the town had seen in many weeks. He said, a very large humanitarian air-drop had finally brought enough food and clean water for the 12 to 15,000 people trapped in the town. The Pentagon said, the aid was a joint effort by the U.S., Britain, France and Australia. The White House says, in a phone call to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, Vice President Joe Biden described the effort to break the Amerli siege as ongoing.

It looks to be the second important defeat for the Islamic State fighters, who earlier were pushed back from the strategic Mosul Dam. While they took the mixed city of Mosul in June with little resistance, the Shiite Turkmen of Amerli held them off for weeks without electricity or sophisticated weapons. Islamic State members consider Shiites and other non-Sunnis apostates who can be killed under their harsh and rigid version of Islam.

Analysts say, the Islamists have held remarkably large chunks of territory with what appears to be relatively few men. The cooperative move to liberate Amerli, with Iraqi units pushing from one direction and Kurdish fighters from another, is exactly the kind of joint effort Washington would like to see confronting the Islamic State militants. And they would like to add Sunni tribesmen to the mix, in an effort to drive the Islamists out of western Anbar province, where violence continues to rage. Officials say, a suicide bomber killed dozens of people in Ramadi Sunday, most of them from the security forces. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Erbil. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon
Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.