With ISIS on the doorstep, Erbil welcomes U.S. airstrikes

ERBIL, Iraq - There is terror among the refugees in northern Iraq because ISIS is slaughtering people of other faiths.

This is largely a war between two branches of Islam. ISIS forces are Sunni. The Iraqi government is dominated by Shiites.

ISIS holds Mosul, with 2 million residents. Now it's threatening Erbil - an 8,000-year-old Kurdish city with more than a million people.

This is a part of Iraq that benefited from the U.S. invasion of 2003 and people here in Erbil have been waiting for and asking for an American intervention for two months, ever since ISIS began its violent rampage across Iraq in June.

ISIS is on Erbil's doorstep as the militants extend the boundaries of what they call their own, Islamic state.

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Residents of Erbil have been hoping for U.S. intervention ever since ISIS began its violent rampage across Iraq in June.
CBS News

Erbil is a Kurdish stronghold - and Kurdish soldiers are the only ones still fighting ISIS on the ground in northern Iraq, after the country's army ran way two months ago.

But ISIS launched a new offensive this week, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing for their lives - many of them religious minorities, including Yazidis and Christians.

On Thursday, Kurdish fighters helped some Yazidi families escape the barren mountaintop where they'd taken refuge from ISIS.

Many say they were given a stark choice by the militants - convert to the group's strict version of Sunni Islam, leave their homes, or face death.

Abu Shaker still has relatives stranded on the mountain where the U.S. is now delivering aid drops.

"They called me just now," he said. "They're walking, and they're leaving dead children behind."

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With ISIS on Erbil's doorstep, many residents felt panic. Now they hope the U.S. airstrikes will give Kurdish fighters a chance to regroup and beat back ISIS.
CBS News

Some here have lost their homes and their loved ones. Others are fearful they could be next. Nearly everyone wants more American airstrikes to protect them from ISIS.

People here say that two days ago there was panic and a sense that Erbil might fall to ISIS. Some people even fled the city.

But now people here seem more relaxed and hopeful because they think the U.S. airstrikes will give the Kurdish fighters the time and strength they need to regroup and push the militants back.

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CBS News

  • Holly Williams

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