Thursday 25 December 2014

RAF carries out aid drops as thousands still stranded on Iraq's Mount Sinjar as they flee militants

Published 12/08/2014 | 08:53

A displaced woman and child from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town
A displaced woman and child from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town
Children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town
A displaced child from minority the Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to Islamic State in Sinjar town

British forces have dropped a second round of aid to thousands of people trapped on a mountain as they flee advancing militants in Iraq.

The RAF was able to deliver "essential supplies" over Mount Sinjar last night to assist the Yazidis, the Department for International Development (DfID) confirmed.

The move follows an aborted attempt to deliver aid to the location in northern Iraq, which was called off when the RAF crew decided that the supplies could have injured the desperate people below. A first successful aid drop took place last weekend.

Downing Street has also confirmed that the RAF will send "a small number" of Tornado jets to the region so they can be used, if required, to improve the UK's surveillance capability in the region to help the humanitarian effort.

The UK will also look at how it can play a role in getting equipment to Kurdish forces as they are better able to counter the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), Number 10 added.

President Barack Obama said the US had "stepped up" its support to Iraqi and Kurdish forces engaged in the fight on the ground and was continuing with its daily humanitarian efforts.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who chaired a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee to discuss the crisis yesterday, said the situation was "challenging" and warned of a "potential humanitarian disaster on a huge scale".

DfID said the UK's second aid drop included 3,180 reusable water purification containers filled with 15,900 litres of clean water and 816 solar lamps that can also be used to charge mobile phones.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "The humanitarian situation in Iraq area is deeply worrying.

"Isis terrorists continue to contest towns and villages south of Erbil and in the Sinjar area and the Yazidi community face appalling conditions, cut off on Mount Sinjar.

"UK aid is already helping the people who desperately need it. Last night the RAF successfully made a second drop of essential supplies, including 3,180 reusable containers filled with clean water."

One of Britain's most senior generals accused the "commitment-phobic" Government of being "terrified" of intervening in the Iraq crisis before next year's general election.

General Sir Richard Shirreff told the Times: "The longer we sit on our hands and prevaricate, the more dangerous the situation is going to become".

But speaking after the Cobra committee meeting yesterday, Mr Hammond rejected calls for Parliament to be recalled to discuss the crisis and said there were no plans for British military involvement.

"We don't envisage a combat role at the present time," he said.

David Cameron, who is on holiday in Portugal, has been urged to call MPs back from their summer break to discuss the crisis and he has also faced pressure - including from former head of the Army Lord Dannatt - to consider a military intervention.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister was "very much engaged" with the situation despite being abroad and a recall of Parliament was "not on the cards".

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