CNN broadcast a video showing the daring helicopter rescue of about 60 Iraqi refugees threatened with genocide on Monday, capturing the desperation of religious minorities in northern Iraq as murderous Islamic jihadists continue to advance despite U.S. airstrikes.
CNN reporter Ivan Watson traveled with Kurdish soldier on an Iraqi military helicopter loaded with aid to Mount Sinjar, where tens of thousands of Yazidi people are trapped by terrorists from the Islamic State. (RELATED: ‘Today America Is Coming To Help’: Obama Announces ‘Targeted Airstrikes’ On Iraq Terrorists)
The film crew captured the entire operation, with soldiers tossing cases of water down below, cramming desperate and terrified refugees onto the small aircraft and firing massive machine guns as they flew over jihadist positions.
“To protect this precious cargo — as we went over the front lines again on the way back — the machine gunners then opened up, blasting at targets down below,” Watson told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “And this was understandably terrifying for the people on board the helicopter; the kids were crying, the women were screaming.”
Watson explained that the people rescued had been stranded on Mount Sinjar for seven days, often without any food or water. (RELATED: Yazidis At White House Plead For Weapons And Aid)
“They’re terrified and traumatized,” he said. “I’ve been doing this job for more than ten years. I have never seen a situation as desperate as this, as emotionally charged as this. And I’ve never seen a rescue effort as ad hoc and as improvised, as this.”
“I think we were all crying on our flight back from there,” the reporter admitted. “And I can say that these men were able to save about 60 people today, but there are still — the Kurdish commander here says tens of thousands of people are still trapped on that mountain, about 45 minutes from where I am right now [in Erbil].”
Watch Watson explain the rescue (video via CNN):