Home to about 15,000 primarily Shia Muslim Turkmen, an ethnic minority in Iraq, Amerli sits in Salahaddin province, 175km north of Baghdad and not far from the city of Tuz Khurmatu and the Kurdish Peshmerga frontline.
After the Islamic State group took control of nearby villages, the town's water and electricity were cut, food and fuel supplies dropped dangerously low, and rocket attacks and sniper fire began to break out on a daily basis. Amina, who didn't give Al Jazeera her real name, escaped from Islamic State fighters by posing as the wife of a neighbouring Sunni Muslim villager.
"After walking a short way, our neighbour met us and we drove down a small track. It was the end of June. At the checkpoint there were three armed men, one was Iraqi and two were not. Our friend told them, 'This is my wife, she wants to give birth' ... They kept asking us questions for ten minutes," Amina, who is Turkman, recalled from Kirkuk, where she gave birth to her newborn daughter and sought refuge.
Amina said she saw corpses lying beside the checkpoint while she escaped. The man who helped her was later captured, she said. She doesn't know if he is alive or dead. Around 2,000 fighters - a mix of ex-Iraqi army and police officers, and other local residents - are defending the town, according to Mustafa Hassan, the leader of Amerli's local defence force and an Iraqi army colonel. Local defence force members are armed with light weapons, which Hassan said are not enough to counter the Islamic State fighters.
"[The Islamic State group is] gathering fighters from other cities of Hawija, Tikrit, and Mosul. Also, every day they are getting more high quality weapons," he said. "This is a battle of honour for us, we are defending our land and our families and we will not stop until our last drop of blood."
The Islamic State group controls the nearby town of Suleiman Beg and all the villages surrounding Amerli. Islamic State fighters are currently one kilometre outside of Amerli, Hassan said, and the battle with local forces is taking place on the town’s outskirts. "They attack us every two or three days with ground troops and they sometimes use tanks and armored vehicles, as well as humvees," he said. "Mortar attacks occur on daily basis."
Speaking to Al Jazeera by phone, the town's only volunteer doctor said two civilians have been killed by sniper fire, and many others were injured as a result of the fighting. Women have died in childbirth because they couldn’t get to a hospital, he said, because the nearest hospitals are in Tuz Khurmatu and Kirkuk, 25 and 100km away from Amerli, respectively.
Children and elderly patients are suffering from illnesses related to drinking unclean water and lacking food, the doctor said.