Iraq crisis: Islamic State militants ‘kill hundreds’ of Yazidi minority as 'women and children buried alive'

America carries out new strikes on Isis targets  near city of Irbil

The brutality being meted out on Iraq’s Yazidi minority by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) is said to have included burying women and children alive, as Washington unleashed further air strikes to try to halt the jihadist advance.

A government minister in Baghdad said “striking evidence” had been obtained that at least 500 Yazidis were murdered in recent days and hundreds of women enslaved. Iraqi Kurdish leaders struggling to repel forces from Isis, who now call themselves the Islamic State, have appealed for direct military aid.

Downing Street said it was stepping up aid drops after the first successful delivery by the RAF over Mount Sinjar, where up to 150,000 Yazidis are thought to have fled, as well as increasing the number of British humanitarian advisers in Irbil, the Kurdish capital.

The Pentagon announced it had conducted a fourth round of attacks in support of Kurdish Peshmerga forces who have been battling to contain Isis forces. The militants had pushed to within just 30 minutes’ drive south of Irbil.

Read more: Iraq crisis: West’s ‘mandate’ limited by national borders – and don’t dare mention oil

Kurdish fighters last night claimed to have retaken a number of towns previously held by the extremist militants as a result of the American intervention. The strikes, conducted by US fighter jets and drones on four armed trucks and a mortar position, came as the Kurdish President, Masoud Barzani, asked the international community to provide his forces with weapons to counter the Isis forces. “We are not asking our friends to send their sons to fight on our behalf,” he said, saying they sought support and “heavy weapons” to counter Isis fighters who have captured equipment abandoned by the US-trained Iraqi army.

The United States also said on Sunday night that it had moved some staff from its consulate in Irbil due to the security situation.

US President Barack Obama warned this weekend there was no quick fix to the problems posed by Isis, whose dramatic surge across a swathe of Iraq since declaring an Islamic caliphate in June has forced Washington’s first military intervention in the country for three years.

Better organised and more hardline than al-Qa’ida, the militants have swept into new areas in the past week, reportedly beheading and crucifying captives including Yazidis and Christians if they refuse to convert to their brand of Islam. The Iraqi Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Isis attacks had reached new levels of depravity as they continue to pursue the Yazidis, who they regard as “devil worshippers”.

Mr Sudani told Reuters news agency that accounts had emerged of the Isis assault on the town of Sinjar, the ancient home of the Yazidis, including testimony of how militants celebrated a massacre of hundreds of civilians with cheers and waving weapons in the air. None of the claims could be independently verified.

“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 State 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.”

Mr Sudani added that up to 300 Yazidi women had been abducted, giving rise to fears they could be taken outside Iraq. In the meantime, the fate of hundreds of families from the minority threatened with execution unless they convert to Islam remained unknown after a deadline passed yesterday afternoon. In remarks likely to put pressure on Washington to step up its policy of limited air strikes on Isis targets, 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. This is a vicious atrocity.”

Peshmerga fighters near Khazer in northern Iraq Peshmerga fighters near Khazer in northern Iraq Yesterday Pope Francis said during his weekly address that the attacks on religious minorities in Iraq left him in “dismay and disbelief” and that the reported violence “offends humanity”.

Downing Street said it expected to increase aid deliveries to the thousands trapped without shelter on Mount Sinjar in the coming days.

After a meeting of Whitehall officials yesterday, Downing Street said the humanitarian situation remained “deeply worrying” and it was also increasing the number of UK advisers in Irbil.

There were reports that as many as 20,000 Yazidis had managed to secure a safe passage off Mount Sinjar through a Kurdish-controlled part of Syria and then into the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous zone.

Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, also pledged further aid during a visit to Iraq yesterday as London, Paris and Washington continued to voice irritation at the failure of Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step aside to form a more inclusive government.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test