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Middle East

Iraq crisis: Hundreds of Yazidi women taken captive by Islamic State militants


Hundreds of Yazidi women have been taken captive by Sunni militants, according to an Iraqi official - further underscoring the plight of Iraq's minorities at the hands of the Islamic State group.

The women captured are under 35-years-old, and are being held in schools in Iraq’s second city, Mosul, said the spokesman for Iraq's Human Rights Ministry, Kamil Amin.

Amin told reporters he believes the women are likely to be considered slaves by the militants who have “vicious plans…in a way that contradicts all the human and Islamic values.”

His comments were the first Iraqi government confirmation that some women were being held by the group. On Tuesday, Yazidi lawmaker Vian Dakheel made an emotional plea in parliament to the Iraqi government to save the Yazidi people, saying the “women have been sold in a slavery market.”

The US also confirmed that the Islamic State had kidnapped and imprisoned the women, but the exact number victimised is unknown. The captives will be sold or married off to extremist fighters, said the US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information came from classified intelligence reports.

Earlier this month, tens of thousands of Yazidis fled when the Islamic State group captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical.

The extremist group's capture of a string of towns and villages in the north has sent minority communities fleeing for their lives. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

About 50,000 Yazidis — half of them children, according to UN figures — fled to the mountains outside Sinjar where many of them remain, trapped and running out of food and water. Late Thursday, the US military cargo jets dropped humanitarian aid to the mountains.

On Friday in the northern city of Arbil, the US military conducted two additional air strikes against Islamic State forces on Friday, the Pentagon said.

The air strikes followed the dropping of two 500-pound bombs on Islamic State positions earlier Friday, included a drone strike on a mortar position and an attack by four F/A-18 jets on an Islamic State convoy and mortar position, the Pentagon said in a statement.

President Barack Obama said the humanitarian airdrops were made at the request of the Iraqi government as the Islamic State militant group tightened its grip on northern Iraq. In his remarks late Thursday, he mentioned “chilling reports” of fighters with the group “rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.”

Additional reporting by AP