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Defense officials said late Wednesday that United States airstrikes and Kurdish fighters had broken the siege on Mount Sinjar, allowing thousands of Yazidis trapped there to escape.

An initial report from about a dozen Marines and Special Operations forces who spent the last 24 hours on the mountain said that “the situation is much more manageable,” a senior defense official told the NY Times

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the announcement at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland Wednesday night. NPR’s David Welna, who was traveling with Hagel, reports:

“They estimate that about a thousand [Yazidi refugees] have been leaving a day and that only several thousand of them are left on the mountain, and that those who are left there have sufficient provisions to remain there for now. So they seemed to conclude that those who are there will be able to make their way off the mountain without a rescue effort made.”

Hagel announced the rescue mission was less likely but that it had not been ruled out completely.

While
an evacuation might not happen, the U.S. “will continue to provide
humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and
facilities,” according to a statement from the Pentagon press office.

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