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Ottawa earmarks $5 million for Iraq aid, half going to "trusted partners."

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OTTAWA - Canada is bolstering its contribution to humanitarian aid in Iraq as the United States carries out air strikes against Islamic militants in the north of the country.

International Development Minister Christian Paradis says $5 million will go toward new assistance projects in Iraq, with $2.25 going immediately to what the government calls trusted humanitarian partners on the ground.

The three organizations are the International Red Cross, Mercy Corps and Save The Children Canada.

Paradis said the remaining amount will be spent after officials hear from Canada's partners in Iraq.

The money is to be used to distribute food, hygiene kits, cooking materials, blankets, tents and other needed supplies.

It is also intended for emergency repairs to essential water and sanitation services and to buy medical supplies.

Paradis also condemned members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria who launched attacks against Christians and other groups in northern Iraq.

"Canada continues to stand by the people of Iraq in these difficult times and condemns the terrorist actions of ISIS and the killing of innocent civilians in northern Iraq in the strongest possible terms," Paradis said in a statement issued by the prime minister's office.

"Canada will continue working closely with our allies to determine how we can best continue to support the needs of Iraqi civilians, particularly religious minorities."

ISIS, formerly known as Al Qaida in Iraq, was declared a terrorist organization by Ottawa in 2012.

Canada has spent $16 million on assistance efforts in and around Iraq since the beginning of this year, with about $6.8 million going to people affected by civil unrest and the remainder to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis.

Iraq was just recently added to Canada's list of development country partners.

A senior Kurdish military official said Kurdish forces retook two towns Sunday from the Sunni militants that have seized large parts of northern Iraq.

There has been a growing response to the militant push to overtake villages in Iraq, including the U.S. air strikes and air drops of aid supplies.

Extremist Sunni militants have sent thousands of the country's minorities fleeing from their homes in fear.

U.S. fighter jets and drones have attacked militants who were firing on minority Yazidis around Sinjar, in the far west of the country near the Syrian border.

After Kurdish fighters opened a path to the border, thousands of Yazidis have been pouring across the river into Kurdish-controlled parts of Syria.

As part of his traditional Sunday blessing, Pope Francis expressed "dismay and disbelief over the violence aimed at religious minorities in Iraq, and called on the international community to end the violence, which has seen people brutally forced from their homes and children dying from thirst.

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