World / Middle East

Islamic State releases about 200 Yazidi captives in Iraq

(Xinhua/Agencies) Updated: 2015-01-19 09:46

Islamic State releases about 200 Yazidi captives in Iraq

People from the minority Yazidi sect sit while waiting along a road on the outskirts of Kirkuk January 17, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

BAGHDAD - The Islamic State (IS) militant group released about 200 elderly members of Iraqi Yazidi religious minority Saturday in northern Iraq, a Kurdish source said.

Gen. Shirko Fatih, commander of Kurdish peshmerga forces in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, said it appears the militants released the prisoners because they were too much of a burden.

A local source told Xinhua that about 200 elderly members of Iraqi Yazidi religious minority who had been held for months were released by IS in southwest of the city of Kirkuk, 250 km north of Baghdad.

The source added that these people were housed in a health center in northern Kirkuk, and "many doctors and volunteers come to provide medical care in the center."

Early in August, IS captured the town of Sinjar, killed and kidnapped hundreds of Yazidis.

The security situation in Iraq began to drastically deteriorate on June 10, when bloody clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and the IS group, an al-Qaida offshoot, who took control of the country's northern province of Nineveh and later seized swathes of territories after Iraqi security forces abandoned their posts in other predominantly Sunni provinces.

About 50,000 Yazidis - half of them children, according to UN figures - fled to the mountains outside Sinjar during the onslaught. Some still remain there.

The US launched airstrikes and humanitarian aid drops in Iraq on Aug 8, partly in response to the crisis on Sinjar mountain. Since then, a coalition of eight countries have conducted more than 1,000 airstrikes across Iraq in an effort to eradicate the Islamic State group, which now holds a third of both Iraq and Syria.

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