A lawmaker says the "Islamic State" has executed at least 25 Yazidis in Iraq and may hold more than 1,400 more. If confirmed, that would be IS's latest mass killing of Yazidis.
"Islamic State" (IS) militants executed captured members of Iraq's minority Yazidi community on Saturday, though reports varied wildly as to the exact number of victims.
The Yazidi Progress Party reported that the group had killed more than 300 members of the minority on Friday in the town of Tal Afar, near the IS-controlled northern city of Mosul. However, Iraq's nongovernmental Human Rights Commission put the figure of the executed Yazidis in Tal Afar at about 70 and the Associated Press news agency quoted a local officials as saying that IS had killed 25 people on Saturday.
"The militants want to spread horror among them to force them to convert to Islam or to do something else," the Yazidi lawmaker Mahma Khalil told AP late Saturday.
Khalil told AP that IS had killed the men, women and children at a camp near Tal Afar, 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of Syria and 420 kilometers northwest of Baghdad. The lawmaker added that he had spoken to four different people with knowledge of what happened inside of the camp, though IS had yet to give a reason for the killings.
Last month, IS set several Yazidis free.
According to the United Nations, in August, about 50,000 Yazidis - roughly half of them children - fled their homeland when IS captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. However, IS also took hundreds of Yazidis captive, forcing some of them into slavery, according to international rights groups and Iraqi officials.
"We call on the Iraqi government and friends to step in to stop bloodshed and the killing of the innocent people," said Qulu Sanjiri, a member of the Human Rights Commission, which estimated that 70 were killed
Speaking to a press conference in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Saturday, Sanjiri added that IS still held at least 3,000 Yazidis.
The US launched airstrikes in Iraq on August 8, partly in response to the crisis on Sinjar mountain, where thousands of Yazidis had taken refuge. Since then, a US-led coalition of countries has conducted airstrikes across Iraq and in Syria in an effort to destroy IS, which now holds a third each of the two countries.
Made up primarily of Sunni Muslims, IS sees Yazidis, who follow a religion that predates Islam, and Shiites as apostates deserving of death, and has also demanded that Christians either convert or pay a special tax. Previously, IS had let go of hundreds of other Yazidis held in captivity. Iraqi and Kurdish officials said they believed that IS could not afford to care for the prisoners.
Last week, Saudi Arabia arrested more than 90 people believed to have ties to IS. The airstrikes, arrests and loss of territory have the group on the decline. However, even as it loses land in its traditional strongholds, IS is picking up new members in farther-flung locales: Nigeria's Boko Haram has pledged allegiance.
mkg/bk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)