U.S. Defense officials announced Wednesday that U.S. and Kurdish operations in Iraq had "broken the siege on Mount Sinjar" in Iraq, making it possible for thousands of the Yazidi people trapped there by raiding Islamic State militants to escape, the New York Times reported. The break in the militants hold on the area resulted from U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish fighters, the paper reported.
Tens of thousands of the minority group have been trapped on the mountaintop, fleeing from raiding Islamic State militants taking large parts of Iraq. The refugees have reportedly been without sufficient food, water, and shelter. President Barack Obama approved humanitarian aid airdrops for the refugees, but concern has remained high that the supplies of food and water would be insufficient to meet the needs of those left on the mountain.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Pentagon official said that a team of under 20 U.S. Army Special Forces were flown to the top of Mount Sinjar to assess options for rescuing the remaining refugees. Following the announcement of the mission, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that fewer of the Yazidi refugees remained stranded on the mountain, thus making it far less likely that the U.S. would conduct a rescue mission there. Only several thousand of the refugees remain on Sinjar Mountain, U.S. officials said, Hagel adding that those left are in relatively good condition.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.