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U.K., France Join U.S. Aid Efforts For Displaced Iraqis


Iraqi Yazidi women who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar sit outside a school, where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5.
Iraqi Yazidi women who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar sit outside a school, where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5.

Britain and France have joined U.S. efforts to provide humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced civilians besieged by Islamic State (IS) jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq for the past week.

The United States is also carrying out air strikes against Islamic State militants.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived in Baghdad on August 10 with plans to boost aid distribution in northern Iraq, where tens of thousands of people -- many of them from the Yazidi religious minority -- have fled into the mountains to escape militant attacks.

They have been stranded on Mount Sinjar with little food and water to survive in summer heat since militants seized the nearby town of Sinjar a week ago.

Fabius said France will provide "several tons" of aid to internally displaced Iraqis.

Fabius also urged Iraqis to form a "government of broad unity so that all Iraqis feel represented and together lead the battle against terrorism."

Meanwhile, two British planes began dropping aid packages to the displaced Yazidis that include food, water, tents, and solar-powered lights that also serve as mobile telephone chargers.

The moves come after U.S. President Barack Obama on August 9 spoke to British and French leaders about joint humanitarian efforts in northern Iraq.

The United States has been dropping supplies of food and water to the displaced Yazidis for several days.

The United States has also been carrying out air strikes on the IS militants, who have advanced during the past week to within about 20 kilometers of Irbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

The U.S. military said on August 10 that U.S. fighter jets and drone planes had carried out another round of aerial strikes.

Obama authorized the military operations on August 7 to halt the militants’ advances in northern Iraq.

The Sunni-led extremist group --which has been fighting in coordination with allied Sunni tribal fighters in northern Iraq -- has taken large swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq and Syria during the summer.

It has also seized five oil fields and the biggest hydroelectric dam in Iraq – giving the ability to flood cities in northern Iraq or cut off water and power supplies.

Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on August 10 asked the international community to provide the Kurds with weapons to bolster their fight against the militants.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholic Pope Frances expressed outrages at the violence aimed at religious minorities in Iraq, including Christian communities in the north. He urged the international community to find a political solution to stop "these crimes."

Frances on August 10 said the victims include "thousands of people, including Christians, who have been brutally forced from their homes, children who have died from thirst during the escape, and women who have been seized."

Frances said his emissary to the region, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, will travel to Iraq on August 11 to show solidarity with Christians who are being forced by IS militants to convert to Islam or face execution.

Iraq's Human Rights Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani told Reuters on August 10 that the militants have killed at least 500 Yazidis during their latest offensive in the north of Iraq.

He said the militants have also buried alive some their victims, including women and children.

The minister said some 300 women have been kidnapped as slaves.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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