ISIS militants killed hundreds of Yazidis, Iraqi minister says
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Militants belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL) have killed at least 500 members of the Yazidi ethnic minority, burying some victims alive in a mass grave found in northern Iraq, an official said Sunday.
Iraq’s Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said news of the killings had come from people who had escaped from Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, the ancient home of the Yazidis and one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as “devil worshipers”.
“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,” Sudani said. “Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar.”
He added that about 300 women had also been forced into slavery by the group which now calls itself Islamic State.
ISIS’s advance through northern Iraq has forced tens of thousands to flee, threatened the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region and provoked the first US air strikes in the area since Washington withdrew troops from Iraq in 2011.
President Barack Obama said on Saturday that US air strikes had destroyed arms that ISIS, which has captured swaths of northern Iraq since June, could have used against the Iraqi Kurds, but he warned that there was no quick fix for the crisis that threatens to tear Iraq apart.
US military aircraft have also dropped relief supplies to tens of thousands of Yazidis who have collected on the desert top of Mount Sinjar seeking shelter from the insurgents, who had ordered them to convert to Islam by Sunday or die.
Speaking before US warplanes struck militant targets for the second straight day, Obama said it would take more than bombs to restore stability, and criticised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government for failing to empower Iraq’s Sunnis.
France joined the calls for Iraq’s feuding leaders to form an inclusive government capable of countering the militants. “Iraq is in need of a broad unity government, and all Iraqis should feel that they are represented in this government,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
“All Iraqis should feel they are represented to take part in this battle against terrorism,” he told a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad in comments translated into Arabic on state television.
Maliki’s critics say his sectarian agenda prompted heavily-armed Sunni tribes to join the insurgency. But Maliki, serving in a caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election in April, has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, fellow Shiites, regional power broker Iran and Iraq’s top cleric to step aside for a less divisive leader.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)