UN warns of 'humanitarian tragedy' as ISIS seizes Sinjar
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Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL) have captured the Iraqi town of Sinjar, forcing up to 200,000 people to flee and creating a "humanitarian tragedy", the UN said on Sunday.
"A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar," the top UN envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a statement after ISIS militants had captured the northern town, which lies near the Syrian border. Thousands of previously displaced families had fled to Sinjar to seek safety.
"The United Nations has grave concerns for the physical safety of these civilians," the statement said.
It said it was particularly concerned by the fate of civilians who fled into the Jabal Sinjar mountains and could be trapped inside an area completely surrounded by the militants.
"The humanitarian situation of these civilians is reported as dire, and they are in urgent need of basic items including food, water and medicine," the statement said.
Sinjar had been controlled by Kurdish troops but they withdrew on Sunday, the second consecutive day of losses for the peshmerga fighters, who also lost the town of Zumar and two nearby oilfields to ISIS jihadists on Saturday.
Sinjar is the historical home of the Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority that adheres to a pre-Islamic faith derived, in part, from Zoroastrianism. They have been targeted by the Sunni militants of ISIS, who believe they are devil worshippers.
Mladenov urged the authorities of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and the federal government in Baghdad to cooperate fully in addressing the crisis.
ISIS has seized a large area straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and in June declared the establishment of an Islamic state or "caliphate", with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as its caliph. Baghdadi has demanded "obedience" from Muslims and ordered them to relocate to the areas under his control.
The latest militant advance comes as the Lebanese army was fighting Islamist fighters from ISIS and the al Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front (Jabhat al Nusra) near the Syrian border. At least three civilians and eight members of the security forces were killed after al Nusra fighters seized a security building late Saturday in the Lebanese border town of Arsal.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
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