Baird supports U.S. air strikes in Iraq

Says Canada not asked for military help

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada fully supports U.S. airstrikes against Islamic extremists in northern Iraq and has received no request for military assistance in the volatile region.

American warplanes bombed artillery used by the al-Qaida splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The guns and rockets were being used against Kurdish forces defending Irbil, a city of approximately 1.5 million people.

The militants took a strategically important dam near Mosul and overran Iraq’s biggest Christian town of Qaraqosh earlier this week. Published reports say ISIL militants executed dozens of men in the Yazidi religious minority community in the town of Sinjar, and kept the dead men’s wives for unmarried jihadi fighters.

The United Nations says as many as 50,000 refugees from the Yazidi community were trapped on a mountain in the area before local Kurdish fighters opened a humanitarian corridor late Friday.

Prior to the relief, U.S. planes conducted airdrops of food and assistance.

“Canada continues to condemn the repugnant killing of innocent civilians, including women and children, from Christian, Yazidi and other religious and minority communities in northern Iraq by the terror group ISIS,” Baird said in a statement.

Canadian officials — including Canada’s ambassador to Iraq, who is based in Jordan — will be working to determine how best to support the Iraqi people, he said.

At the same time, Baird called for political unity in the fractious country where the policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have inflamed sectarian divisions.

“We call on Iraqi leaders to come together to govern for all Iraqis, regardless of religion, and for the sake of the security, democracy and prosperity of the Iraqi people.”