AUSTRALIAN aircraft have participated in a joint-humanitarian aid drop for the beleaguered Iraqi city of Amirli after a commitment to drop arms and munitions for Kurdish fighters battling Islamic state terrorists.
The Pentagon says aircraft from Australia, France and Britain joined the US in the aid drop of Amirli, where thousands of Shiite Turkomen have been cut off from food and water for nearly two months by Islamic State militants, AP reports.
The call for aid came at the request of the Iraqi government. The US military conducted air strikes against Islamic State militants in order to support the aid delivery.
Australia has dropped aid in Amirli. Source: Supplied
Australia had earlier committed to flying plane loads of arms and munitions into Iraq to help Kurdish fighters battling to repel Islamic State terrorists.
The Prime Minister Tony Abbott will announce today that Australia has agreed to a United States request to airlift support on RAAF C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft into northern Iraq.
The aircraft, based at the Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai, could fly their first mission within days to help arm Iraqis against jihadists.
Australia will join a multinational effort that includes the United Kingdom, Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Italy and France.
An IS fighter. Source: Twitter An IS fighter. Source: Twitter Source: Twitter
The United States may also ask Australia to consider deploying RAAF super hornets to support US air strikes as early as this week at NATO talks in Wales. Any request by the US secretary of state John Kerry, who is scheduled to hold talks with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, will be considered by Australia’s National Security Committee.
The decision to airlift support to the Kurds was made at NSC a week ago and work has continued since to prepare for the mission.
The escalation of Australia’s involvement in the conflict comes amid Britain’s decision to increase the official terror threat to “severe’’ amid fears foreign fighters returning from the region are plotting terrorist attacks. Australia’s level remains at “medium’’ but may be increased in coming months.
The Prime Minister described the dangers in the region as a “witches brew of complexity and danger’’ on Friday confirming Australia was talking to the United States about further assistance. Last night, Labor leader Bill Shorten was briefed by the government on the plan to airlift assistance to the Iraqis.
Confirmation of Australia’s involvement in the mission to deliver “urgently needed’’ arms to the Iraqis follows the release of another decapitation video featuring the beheading of a captured Kurdish fighters.
The video warns Iraqi Kurdish leaders to end military cooperation with the United States.
Titled “A message in blood to the leaders of the American-Kurdish alliance” warns Islamic State will continue to decapitate prisoners if the cooperation continues.
Australia will not supply arms to the Iraqis but will assist in flying military equipment supplied by other countries into the region.
Albania has committed to sending up to 22 million AK47 rifle rounds and 32,000 artillery shells. Italy has agreed to send light automatic weapons and Soviet Union weapons seized during the Balkan wars.
Fighters from the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a parade in Raqqa, Syria in June. Picture: AP Photo/Raqqa Media Centre Source: AP
US defence secretary Chuck Hagel urged other nations to join the mission last week, predicting more countries would announce assistance.
“This multinational effort, which is being coordinated with the Government of Iraq in Baghdad, will greatly assist Kurdish forces in repelling the brutal terrorist threat they face from ISIL,’’ he said.
“The United States appreciates the willingness of more and more of our allies and partners to support the Iraqi people in their fight against ISIL. Operations have already begun and will accelerate in the coming days with more nations also expected to contribute.’’
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes a position to monitor security and movements around Kir A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes a position to monitor security and movements around Kirkuk on August 24. Picture: Marwan Ibrahim, AFP Photo Source: AFP
On Friday night, Britain upgraded the official terror alert from ‘Substantial’ to ‘Severe’ but said it was not based on any intelligence suggesting an attack was imminent.
Attorney General George Brandis confirmed Australia’s own alert remained unchanged at “medium’’. However, intelligence agencies believe the threat is at the higher end of medium and the threat level may be increased in coming months.
Senator Brandis said Britain’s decision underlined the growing threat of returning jihadists. Intelligence agencies believe 60 Australians are engaged in fighting in Syria and Iraq, with up to 100 Australians involved in recruiting foreign fighters and suicide bombers at home. Two Australian men including Melbourne teenager Adam Dahman have blown themselves up in Iraq last year.
“We remain in close contact with the United Kingdom and other partners about the threat from terrorist groups active in Syria and Iraq and from returning foreign fighters,’’ Senator Brandis said.
“The large number of Australians participating in the conflict means Australia is facing its highest threat for some time, Australia’s threat level would be increased to ‘High’ if it were deemed that a terrorist attack is likely to occur. The Government is taking all necessary steps to keep Australia and Australian interests safe.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission also backed new laws to tackle terror threat yesterday, subject to adoption of human rights safeguards.
“Strong national security is essential to protect the personal security and rights of all Australians, but there are limits to the reach of national security laws when they unjustifiably restrict individual rights and freedoms” said Commission President, Gillian Triggs.
The Commission said that the potential impact of the laws on journalists, provisions enabling warrants for 12 months access to computers, computer networks and premises remained a concern.
Blanket immunity to ASIO officers from Australian law in conducting surveillance activities with inadequate, independent oversight also needed to be the subject of greater safeguards.