Militants kill 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority
Some victims buried alive and 300 women kidnapped as slaves as US airstrikes continue
Refugees from the Yazidi religious minority take shelter by the roadside in Dayrabun in Iraq’s northern Dohuk province, yesterday. Many of the Yazidis who fled from Islamic State fighters remain on the slopes of Mount Sinjar, where they are now in danger of starving upon a mountain which they hold sacred. Photograph: Adam Ferguson/The New York Times
Iraq’s deputy foreign minister Nizar al-Khairallah (R) welcomes French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius upon his arrival in Baghdad today. Mr Fabius urged Iraq’s bickering leaders to form an inclusive government capable of countering Islamic State militants advancing through the north of the country. Photograph: Reuters
Humanitarian aid being loaded onto a RAF Hercules C130 at RAF Brize Norton in the UK for Iraq, as a British military aircraft made the first airdrop of humanitarian aid in Iraq. Photograph: PA
Refugees from the Yazidi religious minority cross the Syrian border into Faysh Khabur, in Iraq’s northern Dohuk province yesterday. Photograph: Adam Ferguson/The New York Times
Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq’s human rights minister told Reuters on Sunday.
Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.
“We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar,” Mr Sudani said.
Sinjar is the ancient home of the Yazidis, one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as “devil worshipers” and tell them to convert to Islam or face death.
A deadline passed at midday today for 300 Yazidi families to convert to Islam or face death at the hands of the militants. It was not immediately clear whether the Iraqi minister was talking about the fate of those families or others in the conflict.
“Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar,” Mr Sudani said.
“In some of the images we have obtained there are lines of dead Yazidis who have been shot in the head while the Islamic State fighters cheer and wave their weapons over the corpses,” said Mr Sudani. “This is a vicious atrocity.”
The United States conducted new air strikes on Islamic State targets near Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, US Central Command said today.
The strikes, launched by drone aircraft and US fighter jets, were aimed at protecting Kurdish Peshmerga forces as they face off against Islamist militants near Arbil, the site of a U.S. consulate and a US-Iraqi joint military operations center, Central Command said in a statement.
The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, has prompted tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee for their lives during their push to within a 30-minute drive of Arbil.
Earlier in their push through northern Iraq, Islamic State, which also considers all Shias heretics who must repent or die, boasted of killing hundreds of captive Shia soldiers after capturing the city of Tikrit on June 12th. They put footage on the Internet of their fighters shooting prisoners.
The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, are spread over northern Iraq and are part of the country’s Kurdish minority.
Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein’s troops tried to crush the Kurds during his iron-fisted rule. Some were taken away by the executed former leader’s intelligence agents.
Now they are on the defensive again. Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled for their lives after Kurdish fighters abandoned them in the face of Islamic State militants, and are trapped on a mountain near Sinjar at risk of starvation.
“We spoke to some of the Yazidis who fled from Sinjar. We have dozens of accounts and witness testimonies describing painful scenes of how Islamic State fighters arrived and took girls from their families by force to use them as slaves,” Mr Sudani said.
“The terrorist Islamic State has also taken at least 300 Yazidi women as slaves and locked some of them inside a police station in Sinjar and transferred others to the town of Tal Afar. We are afraid they will take them outside the country.”
“The international community should submit to the fact that the atrocities of the Islamic State will not stop in Iraq and could be repeated somewhere else if no urgent measures were taken to neutralise this terrorist group,” Mr Sudani added.
“It’s now the responsibility of the international community to take a firm stand against the Islamic State to reach a consensus on a legitimate decision to start the war on Islamic State to stop genocides and atrocities against civilians.”
The militant group, which arrived in northern Iraq in June, has routed Kurds in its latest advance, seizing several towns, a fifth oilfield and Iraq’s biggest dam - possibly gaining the ability to flood cities and cut off water and power supplies.
The US military has also conducted a third airdrop of food and water to members of the Yazidi.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius arrived in Baghdad today for talks with officials on efforts to confront the militants.
Kurdish officials said Mr Fabius would later travel to Arbil for further talks.