Australia said Sunday it would help the United States in an international effort to transport weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, as international powers pressed efforts to stymie the advance of the Islamist group in Iraq.
“The United States government has requested that Australia help to transport stores of military equipment, including arms and munitions, as part of a multi-nation effort,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement.
“Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster aircraft will join aircraft from other nations including Canada, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States to conduct this important task.”
Albania, Croatia and Denmark have also committed to providing Kurdish forces with arms and equipment, the US said Wednesday.
Abbott said there was a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Iraq and Australia was working with other countries to alleviate it and “address the security threat posed by ISIL.”
The US military on Saturday dropped humanitarian aid to the besieged Iraqi town of Amerli, home to thousands of Shiite Turkmen cut off by jihadist rebels from receiving food, water, and medical supplies.
“At the request of the government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.
“The United States Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom, who also dropped much needed supplies.”
The humanitarian aid was delivered in conjunction with “coordinated airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation,” the US military officer said, referring to the Islamic State (IS) forces also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amerli,” Kirby said.
A later statement from the US Central Command, which covers the middle east, said the US supplies had included around 10,500 gallons of drinking water and 7,000 pre-packaged meals.
Kirby said that “the US military will continue to assess the effectiveness of these operations and work with the Department of State, the US Agency for International Development, as well as international partners including the Government of Iraq, the United Nations, and non-government organizations to provide humanitarian assistance in Iraq as needed.”
The US military also launched fresh attacks Saturday on IS forces near Iraq’s Mosul dam, deploying fighter aircraft and drones to carry out the airstrikes, the Pentagon said earlier on Saturday. Centcom said the US had carried out airstrikes which resulted in the destruction of “three ISIL Humvees, one ISIL armed vehicle, one ISIL checkpoint and one ISIL tank near Amirli.”