Islamic State's carnage spreads as Yazidis slain
DOHUK, Iraq — Extremist fighters swarmed into a besieged Yazidi village on Friday and killed or captured dozens of residents, according to Yazidis and Kurdish commanders, offering a reminder that the ancient minority sect is still in danger despite President Obama's conclusion that the risk had passed for a group stranded on Mt. Sinjar.
Islamic State terrorists surged into Kocho, on the nearby Sinjar Plain, after a weeklong siege in which the al-Qaida-inspired group demanded that residents convert to Islam or face death, said the reports.
The men were rounded up and executed, and the women were taken to an undisclosed location, said Ziad Sinjar, a peshmerga commander based on the edge of Mt. Sinjar, citing the accounts of villagers nearby. He put the number of dead at 42 and said 80 women and children had been transported out of the village.
Yazidi activists said at least 80 men were killed and hundreds of women were taken away.
The accounts could not be independently confirmed, or the conflicting numbers reconciled, but fears had been growing for the welfare of Yazidis trapped in the village since the Islamic State siege began on Aug. 7.
The U.S. Central Command said it had carried out a drone strike south of the town of Sinjar on receiving reports of an attack in the area. The drone “struck and destroyed two vehicles,” it said.
The alleged killings happened a day after Obama called off plans for a military evacuation of Yazidis trapped on Mt. Sinjar, saying they were no longer at risk. If confirmed, they would constitute the worst single atrocity committed against the Yazidis since the Aug. 3 assault on Sinjar triggered a humanitarian crisis and contributed to the Obama administration's decision to intervene.
At least 10 airstrikes and drops of food and medicine have since helped tens of thousands of Yazidis reach safety since they sought refuge on the mountain nearly two weeks ago, then got stranded in the barren terrain without water or food. Although the airstrikes appear to have helped those trapped on the mountain reach safety, people who did not join the initial exodus are still at risk, Yazidis say.
“The sole mission of the airstrikes was to protect the people on the mountain, not to free anyone outside the mountain,” said Murad Ismael, a Yazidi activist based in Washington.
Kocho lies south of the town of Sinjar, from which the exodus took place, and many residents were unable to join the scramble to flee because they found themselves cut off by the Islamic State advance, according to Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq.
After the Islamic State terrorists surrounded the village last week, they issued a deadline of Sunday, which was extended to Monday, then extended again several times more as the week wore on.
On Friday, the fighters moved in, apparently unopposed by the defenseless villagers.
Ismael said he believed the Islamic State was emboldened to strike against the village when Obama called off the evacuation plan.
“They did not kill them when there was air coverage,” he said. “They started killing only after Obama said the siege is over. They got the message and decided to kill these people.”
Obama has said the airstrikes will continue, even though the plan to evacuate Yazidis from the mountain has been dropped, and stressed that Iraqis still face a “dire” threat from the Islamic State.
The administration has said it will send arms directly to Kurdish forces, with the approval of the government.
On Friday, the effort to arm the Kurds against the Islamic State received a boost when the European Union gave its blessing to individual European nations to send weapons. It said it would look for ways to prevent Islamic State jihadists from benefiting from oil sales.
So far, France and the Czech Republic have said they will supply arms, while other European countries including Germany and the Netherlands have indicated they are open to the possibility. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain would “consider favorably” any Kurdish request for weapons.
At the United Nations, Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Alhakim said his government has asked the United States to increase its airstrikes beyond the limits set by Obama of targets related to humanitarian missions and protection of U.S. personnel.
“We are working with the United States on this,” Alhakim said.