200 U.S. contractors surrounded by jihadists in Iraq
About 200 Americans under contract with the Department of Defense at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq are trapped by the al-Qaida-inspired jihadists who have seized control of two cities and are now threatening Baghdad, according to WND sources.
The sources, private contractors who have recently returned to the U.S. from Iraq, said Friday their former colleagues effectively have been abandoned by the U.S. military and are fighting for their lives against an army of jihadists surrounding the base who belong to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The U.S. contractors are at Balad to help the Pentagon prepare the facilities for the delivery of the F-16 aircraft the Obama administration has agreed to provide the Iraqi government.
The surrounded Americans said they currently are under ISIS fire from small arms, AK47s, and rocket propelled grenades, or RPGs.
The contractors so far have been able to hold the base, but those on the scene reported it was only a matter of time before the ISIS terrorists succeeded in breaking through the perimeter. The sources confirmed the contractors were still under siege, despite an Associated Press report Thursday, citing U.S. officials, that three planeloads of Americans were being evacuated from Balad.
WND has learned from sources that the jihadists have closed down escape routes, and the U.S. Air Force is in a stand-down position. U.S. forces are not assisting even with air cover so a private extradition flight could land for a rescue, the sources said.
Privately scheduled exit flights have fallen through, sources said, as several private pilots originally scheduled to make the flights have quit.
The sources contend the U.S. military could provide the necessary air cover to protect C-130s or other air transport craft sufficient to make the evacuation, but so far officials have refused to get involved.
Balad Air Force Base has been under attack since Wednesday, when ISIS rebels seized the nearby town of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.
The attacking ISIS forces approached Balad Air Force Base in trucks Wednesday and called through loudspeakers for all private security forces and Iraqi special military to leave immediately or die.
The U.S. private contractors in touch with WND reported that after hearing the broadcast, the private security forces and the Iraqi military defending the base dropped their weapons and ran.
The American contractors collected the weapons left behind and were able to hold off further immediate advances.