The Iraqi military says its forces have broken a siege by jihadist militants surrounding the town of Amerli. It is the biggest military success for Baghdad since a jihadist-led offensive began in June.
Iraqi security forces, Shiite militiamen and Kurdish peshmerga fighters on Sunday succeeded in breaking through to the town of Amerli, which has been under siege by jihadist militants for more than two months, officials said.
"Our forces entered Amerli and broke the siege," security spokesman Lieutenant General Qassim Atta told AFP news agency.
The military success was confirmed by other local sources, including one of the people who had been fighting to defend the town, Nihad al-Biyati.
Amerli, some 160 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad, is home to some 15,000 people, the majority of whom are Shiite Turkmen whom the Sunni jihadists of the "Islamic State" (IS) group consider heretics.
In addition to the dangers posed by the jihadist siege, residents of Amerli had been facing major shortages of food and water, which an international airdrop tried to relieve on Saturday.
The United States announced it had carried out three airstrikes in support of the airdrop, the first time that its more than three-week air campaign against the IS militants has expanded beyond the north of the country.
The UN envoy to Iraq had warned that people in Amerli faced a "possible massacre" by the besieging militants.
Sunday's operation represents a much-needed success for the federal government in Baghdad as it fights back against IS, who overran large parts of Iraq in June in a lightning offensive.
After initial disarray, the Iraqi military has rallied in recent weeks, but is still struggling to regain ground.
Forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region have made better headway against IS with support from US airstrikes on militant targets.
tj/se (AFP, dpa)