Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, burying some of their victims alive and kidnapping hundreds of women, a Baghdad government minister said on Sunday.
The insurgents’ advance through northern Iraq has forced tens of thousands to flee, threatened the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region and provoked the first U.S. air strikes in the area since Washington withdrew troops from Iraq in 2011.
Iraq’s human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said that he had evidence that the Sunni militants had thrown the Yazidi dead into mass graves, adding that some of those buried alive were women and children. About 300 women had been forced into slavery, he said.
President Barack Obama said on Saturday that US air strikes had destroyed arms that the Islamic State, which has captured swaths of northern Iraq since June, could have used against the Iraqi Kurds, but he warned that there was no quick fix for the crisis that threatens to tear Iraq apart.
US military aircraft have also dropped relief supplies to tens of thousands of Yazidis who have collected on the desert top of Mount Sinjar seeking shelter from the insurgents, who had ordered them to convert to Islam by Sunday or die.
Sudani said news of killings had come from people who had escaped from nearby Sinjar, the ancient home of the Yazidis and one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as “devil worshipers”.
“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 States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar,” Sudani said. “Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar.”
Speaking before US warplanes struck militant targets for the second straight day, Obama said it would take more than bombs to restore stability, and criticised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government for failing to empower Iraq’s Sunnis.
France joined the calls for Iraq’s feuding leaders to form an inclusive government capable of countering the militants. “Iraq is in need of a broad unity government, and all Iraqis should feel that they are represented in this government,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
“All Iraqis should feel they are represented to take part in this battle against terrorism,” he told a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad in comments translated into Arabic on state television.
Maliki’s critics say his sectarian agenda prompted heavily-armed Sunni tribes to join the insurgency. But Maliki, serving in a caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election continued…