BAGHDAD: ISIS militants have killed hundreds of Iraq’s minority Yezidi community, burying some alive and taking women as slaves, an Iraqi government minister said Sunday, as U.S. warplanes again bombed the jihadists.
Human rights minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani accused the jihadists of celebrating a “a vicious atrocity” with cheers and weapons waved in the air. No independent confirmation was available.
The U.S. Central Command said drone aircraft and fighter jets had hit ISIS armed trucks and mortar positions near Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region.
That marked a third successive day of U.S. airstrikes, and Central Command said in a statement that they were aimed at protecting Kurdish peshmerga forces as they face off against ISIS near Irbil.
Sudani said in a telephone interview that accounts of the killings had come from people who had escaped Sinjar, an ancient home of the Yezidis, a Kurdish-speaking community whose religion has set them apart from Muslims and other local faiths. “We have striking evidence obtained from Yezidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs [of ISIS] have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar,” he said.
“Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar,” he added.
Kurdish Regional President Masoud Barzani urged allies to send arms to help his forces hold off the militants, who have bases across the Syrian border. During a visit by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Barzani said: “We are not fighting a terrorist organization, we are fighting a terrorist state.”
Another senior Kurdish official said Kurds retook two towns southwest of Irbil, Guwair and Makhmur, with the help of U.S. strikes but said he did not expect a rapid end to the fighting.
Sudani added that ISIS “has also taken at least 300 Yezidi women as slaves and locked some of them inside a police station in Sinjar and transferred others to the town of Tal Afar.
U.S. military aircraft have dropped relief supplies to tens of thousands of Yezidis who have collected on the desert top of nearby Mount Sinjar.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who authorized the airstrikes late last week to prevent a genocide, said it would take more than bombs to restore stability, and criticized Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for failing to share power with Iraq’s Sunni minority.
But Iraq’s parliament adjourned Sunday until Aug. 19 with lawmakers unable to agree on a nominee for the post of prime minister despite ever-growing international pressure, several MPs said.