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Aid from Iraqi government, Red Crescent enters town of Amirli after Sunni siege broken

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BAGHDAD — Aid began to flow to a small northern Shiite town on Monday, a day after Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias broke a two-month siege by Sunni militants there.

Ali al-Bayati, who heads local NGO the Turkmen Saving Foundation, said that four trucks loaded with foodstuffs, medicine and fruit had entered the town of Amirli. The aid was sent by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Red Crescent, he said, adding that soldiers had begun bringing food to families in their houses Sunday night.

"The situation is getting back to normal, but gradually," al-Bayati told The Associated Press. "Some people have come out form their houses and walk in the street. Shops are still closed, but people are happy to see their city secured by Iraqi security forces," he added.

Since early this year, Iraq has faced a growing Sunni insurgency led by an al-Qaida-breakaway group, the Islamic State, and allied militants have taken over territory in the country's north and west. The crisis is Iraq's worst since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The blitz stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away and withdrew as the Islamic State in June overran the northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit, as well as small towns and villages on their path.

PHOTO: Shiite militiamen patrol in Amirli, 105 miles (170 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen on Sunday broke a six-week siege imposed by the Islamic State extremist group on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, following U.S. airstrikes against the Sunni militants' positions, officials said. (AP Photo)
Shiite militiamen patrol in Amirli, 105 miles (170 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen on Sunday broke a six-week siege imposed by the Islamic State extremist group on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, following U.S. airstrikes against the Sunni militants' positions, officials said. (AP Photo)

Since then, Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias have been fighting the militants without achieving significant progress on the ground. On Sunday, the forces managed to break a two-month siege imposed by the militants on Amirli, where about 15,000 Shiite Turkmens were stranded.

Also Monday, the United Nations said that at least 1,420 Iraqis were reported killed in violence in August, down from the previous month.

The U.N. mission to Iraq, known as UNAMI, said in its monthly statement that the death toll includes 1,265 civilians and 155 members of Iraq's security forces. It added that 1,370 were wounded, including 1,198 civilians.

July's death toll stood at 1,737 people. In June, 2,400 were killed as Sunni militants swept across the country, the highest figure since at least April 2005.

The statement said the figures are the "absolute minimum" number of casualties and they do not include deaths in the western Anbar province or other parts of northern Iraq that have been held by militants for months. It added: "The actual figures could be significantly higher."


Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed from Baghdad.

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