BAGHDAD — Members of a minority Iraqi Shiite community whose town has been besieged by Sunni militants appealed to Iraq's military and the international community to intervene to end the siege, a lawmaker said Wednesday as the U.N. started a massive aid push to help Iraqis uprooted by the extremists.
Also Wednesday, scattered attacks killed at least 11 people in and near Baghdad. The city has not been spared the almost daily violence even as the country grapples with the onslaught by the Islamic State group and their militant Sunni allies.
The siege of the northern town of Amrili, populated by Shiite Turkmens, is part of the Islamic State's offensive, which seized large swaths of western and northern Iraq this summer and also pushed further in neighboring Syria.
The militants' rampage, however, suffered a major setback this week when Iraqi and Kurdish troops backed by U.S. airstrikes dislodged the Islamic fighters from a strategic dam near Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city which militants overran in June.
Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram said nearly 15,000 Turkmens in Amirli, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Baghdad, have been besieged for the past two months by militants affiliated with the Islamic State.
The siege has left the residents in a dire situation, despite of recent army airdrops of weapons, food and medical supplies. The town has no water or electricity, yet the residents are putting up a fierce resistance, al-Tarzi said.
"Amirli is besieged from all sides and calls for help are falling on deaf ears," he said, urging the U.S. to consider airstrikes on militant targets around the town.
Resident Jaafar Kadhim al-Bayati, a 41-year-old father of three, told The Associated Press over the phone that children in Amirli are getting sick and that the town needs more help.
"We are starving, we ran out of food and the only clinic is not functioning now due to lack of medicines," he said. He added that a pregnant woman died while in labor this week, she was brought to the clinic but there was no one to help her there.
Like other religious minorities in Iraq such as the Christians and the Yazidis, the Turkmen community has also been targeted by the Islamic State, which considers them to be apostates. Thousands of Turkmens have been uprooted from their homes since the Islamic State took Mosul, the northern city of Tikrit and a spate of towns and villages in the area.
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi held talks with outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the premier-designate, Haider al-Abadi, during a one-day visit to Baghdad. Al-Abadi has until Sept. 11 to submit a list of Cabinet members to parliament for approval.
In Rome, Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said that Italy intends to supply light, portable arms for the Iraqi Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State. She said there would be checks in place in Iraq "to control that the arms get where they are supposed to go."
In Baghdad, six civilians were killed and 12 were wounded when a parked car bomb ripped through Palestine Street, a police officer said. Mortar rounds in the northern Sabaa al-Bour neighborhood killed three and wounded nine, another police officer said.
And in the town of Mahmoudiyah, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, a bomb hidden in a garbage pile killed two people and wounded five, according to police officials there. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
The Islamic State blitz has forced some 1.5 million people to flee their homes since June while thousands more have died, prompting the U.N. to declare its highest level of emergency last week.
On Wednesday, the U.N. refugee agency launched a massive air, road and sea 10-day operation to help the displaced, including a four-day airlift with Boeing 747 planes that will bring in aid from Aqaba, Jordan, to Iraq's northern Kurdish region.
The first flight landed on Wednesday afternoon in the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, carrying 100 metric tons (110 tons) of emergency aid, the UNHCR said.
Shoko Shimozawa, the UNHCR representative for Iraq, welcomed the first cargo flight.
"This is by large, by far, one of the largest relief operations we are doing," she said. "But this is also comparative because of the enormity of the situation. And the crisis that we are facing."
Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesman, warned that "conditions remain desperate" in many places.
"Many are still coming to grips with the tragedy they've been through in recent weeks — fleeing homes with nothing, and many trying to cope with the loss of loved ones," he said.
The gains made by the Islamic State have brought U.S. forces back into the conflict for the first time since American troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011. America's renewed involvement on the battlefield was a reflection of the growing international concern over the Sunni extremists' blitz. Washington began carrying out dozens of airstrikes in Iraq on Aug. 8.
But in a horrifying act of revenge for the U.S. airstrikes, the Islamic State released a grisly video on Tuesday showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley who went missing in Syria in November 2012. The militants have also threatened to kill another hostage, U.S. officials said.
Associated Press writer Frances D'Emilio in Rome, Italy, contributed to this report. Follow Sinan Salaheddin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sinansm