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US again strikes IS jihadists

August 10, 2014

Thousands of northern Iraqis who are trying to flee jihadist terror have escaped into Kurdish territory, but tens of thousands more remain trapped. France, Britain and Iraq have joined US drops of food and water.

Irak Jesiden Flucht 9.8.2014

Germany allocated another 1.5 million euros for humanitarian aid on Sunday as alarm grew worldwide over the fate of Yazidis, Christians and other minorities trying to flee Islamist militants in northern Iraq.

Pope Francis said the violent persecution depicted in "dismaying" reports "offends humanity."

The US, which began airstrikes on Thursday, said its drone aircraft and jets had on Sunday again targeted "Islamic State" (IS) militants near Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital in northern Iraq, as well as IS militants who had fired on Yazidis sheltering in a barren mountain range near the town of Sinjar.

Kurdish general Shirko Fatih said Kurdish fighters had been able to end their recent pullback by pushing IS militants out of the villages of Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 45 kilometers from Irbil.

France and Britain on Sunday said they had followed US and Iraq cargo planes in dropping food and water by air over Mount Sinjar, where British officials estimate up to 150,000 people could be trapped.

Some escape into Kurdish region

A spokeswoman for Iraq's Yazidi minority, lawmaker Vian Dakhil, said 20,000 of the displaced had managed to flee the IS siege with the help of Kurdish troops, by looping through a Syrian border area into northern Iraq's Kurdish-run region.

She told the news agency AFP the escape passage "isn't 100 percent safe. There is still a risk."

A Kurdish regional government official said those escaping had arrived via the Fishkhabur crossing -- between Syria and Iraq -- during the joint rescue bid by Kurdish forces from Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

France's Fabius denounces 'caliphate'

Visiting Irbil on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius denounced what he called the "Caliphate of Hate," in reference to terminology used by the "Islamic State" - formerly known as the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) - since its seizure of parts of Syria and Iraq starting in June, including Iraq's northwestern city of Mosul.

Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani urged the international community to send arms to help Kurdish forces to hold off the militants.

"We are not fighting a terrorist organization, we are fighting a terrorist state," Barzani said.

Fabius, who had earlier visited Baghdad, reiterated his call for the "rapid establishment of a unity government" to fight the jihadists.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and his Shiite-led government have long resisted Western pressure to share power with Iraqi's Sunni minority, which dominated Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003.

'Buried alive,' alleges Iraqi minister

The Iraqi government's human rights minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani alleged in a telephone interview with Reuters on Sunday that IS militants had killed at least 500 members of the Yazidi minority after seizing Sinjar.

Some of the victims had been "buried alive in scattered mass graves" by IS militants, he claimed.

Sudani said the news had come from people who escaped the town, which is the ancient home of Kurdish-speaking followers of a religion influenced by Zoroastrianism. The IS had demanded that Yazidi convert to Islam or die as heretics, he cited the people as saying.

Sudani said the IS had also taken at least 300 Yazidi women as slaves.

Papal envoy due Monday

At the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis said Iraq needed an "effective political solution" and said his special envoy Cardinal Fernando Filoni was due in Iraq on Monday.

"The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; violence of every kind," he said.

'Nightmare scenario,' says Germany

Announcing the extra 1.5 million euros in German humanitarian aid for refugees in northern Iraq, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said those displaced "must" be helped. The US aerial intervention was "important," he added.

The campaign by the IS militants "exceeds every nightmare scenario we have heard from the region," Steinmeier said. The militants were destroying "everything and all persons who did not fit their world view," he added.

Broad plea for assistance in Germany

Steinmeier's statement followed a call for immediate humanitarian aid for Iraq's persecuted Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities from a broad coalition in Germany, comprising political parties, religious communities, rights advocates and artists.

The chairman of the Central Council of Yazidis in Germany, Telim Tolan, said the refugee camps in Turkey and Iraq's Kurdish region urgently needed assistance.

ipj/tj (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)