THE WORLDPOST
08/16/2014 09:32 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2014

Airstrikes Target Islamic State After Reports Of Yazidi Massacre

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Kurdish forces backed by US warplanes battled Saturday to retake Iraq's largest dam from Islamic State jihadist fighters, whose latest atrocity was a massacre in a Yazidi village.

Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers relieved by the exit of long-time premier Nuri al-Maliki were flying aid to the displaced and arms to the Kurds.

Kurdish forces attacked the IS fighters who wrested the Mosul dam from them a week earlier, a general told AFP.

"Kurdish peshmerga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam" complex, Major General Abdelrahman Korini told AFP, saying several jihadists had been killed.

Buoyed by the air strikes US President Barack Obama ordered last week, the peshmerga have tried to claw back the ground they lost since the start of August.

The dam on the Tigris provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation in vast farming areas in Nineveh province.

The recapture of Mosul dam would be one of the most significant achievements in a fightback that is also getting international material support.

A day after the European Union foreign ministers encouraged the bloc's member countries to send arms to the Kurds, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Iraq.

Steinmeier, whose country hosts the largest Yazidi diaspora in the West, visited the autonomous region to assess the needs of the displaced and the peshmerga.

JIHADISTS 'TOOOK THEIR REVENGE'

Fear of an impending genocide against the Yazidi minority, whose faith is anathema to the Sunni Muslim extremists, was one reason Washington cited for air strikes it began on August 8.

Obama declared the Mount Sinjar siege over on Thursday, but vulnerable civilians remain in areas taken by the jihadists.

In Kocho, senior Kurdish official Hoshyar Zebari said the jihadists "took their revenge on its inhabitants, who happened to be mostly Yazidis who did not flee their homes".

Human rights groups and residents say IS fighters have demanded that villagers in the Sinjar area convert or leave, unleashing violent reprisals on any who refused.

A senior official of one of Iraq's main Kurdish parties said 81 people had lost their lives in the Friday attack, while a Yazidi activist said the death toll could be even higher.

The village lies near the northwestern town of Sinjar, which the jihadists stormed on August 3 sending tens of thousands of civilians, many of them Yazidi Kurds, fleeing into the mountains to the north.

They hid there for days with little food or water.

Mohsen Tawwal, a Yazidi fighter, said he saw a large number of bodies in Kocho on Friday.

"We made it into a part of Kocho village, where residents were under siege, but we were too late," he told AFP by telephone.

"There were corpses everywhere. We only managed to get two people out alive. The rest had all been killed."

The Pentagon announced that US drones had struck an IS convoy leaving the village on Friday after receiving reports that residents were under attack.

The outcome of the latest US strike was not immediately clear.

THOUSANDS KIDNAPPED, SAYS AMNESTY

Amnesty International, which has been documenting mass abductions in the Sinjar area, says IS has kidnapped thousands of Yazidis since it launched its offensive in the region on August 3.

Members of the Christian, Turkmen and other minorities have also been affected by the violence.

In New York, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at weakening the jihadists, who control large areas of neighbouring Syria as well as of Iraq.

The resolution "calls on all member states to take national measures to suppress the flow of foreign terrorist fighters", and threatens sanctions against anyone involved in their recruitment.

When jihadist forces began their Iraq offensive on June 9, Kurdish peshmerga forces initially fared better than retreating federal soldiers, but the US-made weaponry abandoned by government troops turned IS into an even more formidable foe.

They were able to sweep through the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in early June, encountering little effective resistance.

Many in and outside Iraq say the Shiite-led government was partly to blame by pushing sectarian policies that have marginalised and radicalised the Sunni minority.

Outgoing premier Nuri al-Maliki was seen as an obstacle to any progress, and his announcement on Thursday that he was abandoning his efforts to cling to power was welcomed with a sigh of relief at home and abroad.

In another potentially game-changing development, 25 Sunni tribes in the western province of Anbar, including some that had previously been on the fence, announced on Friday that they were launching a coordinated effort to oust IS fighters.

08/16/2014 6:17 PM EDT

US Military: Fighters, Drone Aircraft Strike Militants In N Iraq

08/16/2014 6:07 PM EDT

Kurdish Officials Say 300 Killed In Friday 'Massacre'

Correspondent for Britain's The Sunday Times Hala Jaber reports that Kurdish and Yazidi officials say the death toll from the Islamic State's attack on the Iraq village of Kocho on Friday is higher than previously estimated. A Kurdish official initially said around 80 people lost their lives.

08/16/2014 5:57 PM EDT

British PM: Islamic State Militants Could Target UK

08/16/2014 4:49 PM EDT

NYT Correspondent Recounts Iraq Helicopter Crash

New York Times correspondent Alissa J. Rubin tells her story inside the Iraqi helicopter that crashed on the Sinjar mountains on Tuesday while attempting to rescue stranded Yazidis.

Rubin was wounded in the crash and dictated the article from her hospital bed in Istanbul, the newspaper notes.

Read her moving account on The New York Times here.

08/16/2014 2:23 PM EDT

Iraq Refugees Learn Of Yazidi Massacre

The BBC's Yalda Hakim reports from a refugee camp in Dohuk on how the Yazidi community learned of an alleged massacre by Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Watch the BBC report here.

08/16/2014 1:03 PM EDT

U.S. Provides Air Support To Kurdish Offensive

Kurdish forces, supported by U.S. warplanes, are battling to recaptured Iraq's largest dam from Islamic State militants, Agence France Presse reports.

More from AFP:

Kurdish forces attacked the Islamic State fighters who wrested the Mosul dam from them a week earlier, a general told AFP.

"Kurdish peshmerga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam" complex, Major General Abdelrahman Korini told AFP, saying several jihadists had been killed.

08/16/2014 12:54 PM EDT

The Kurdish Iraqi leader has appealed to Germany for weapons to battle the advancing Islamic State, Reuters reports.

From Reuters:

Germany has shied away from direct involvement in military conflicts for much of the post-war era and a survey conducted for Bild am Sonntag newspaper indicated that almost three quarters of Germans were against shipping weapons to the Kurds.

But Germany's defense minister has said the government was looking into the possibility of delivering military hardware.

Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, said the Kurds needed more than the humanitarian aid that Germany began sending on Friday to support people forced to flee their homes by the Sunni militant group's advance.

"We also expect Germany to deliver weapons and ammunition to our army so that we can fight back against the IS terrorists," Barzani told German magazine Focus. He said they needed German training and what they lacked most were anti-tank weapons.

08/16/2014 11:38 AM EDT

U.S.-Backed Kurds Attempt To Recapture Mosul Dam

08/16/2014 11:14 AM EDT

Airstrikes Target Islamic State After Reports Of Yazidi Massacre

The Associated Press reports:

Airstrikes pounded the area around Iraq's largest dam on Saturday in an effort to drive out militants who captured it earlier this month, as reports emerged of the massacre of some 80 members of the Yazidi religious minority by Islamic extremists.

Residents living near the Mosul Dam told The Associated Press that the area was being targeted by airstrikes, but it was not immediately clear whether the attacks were being carried out by Iraq's air force or the U.S., which last week launched an air campaign aimed at halting the advance of the Islamic State group across the country's north.

The extremist group seized the dam on the Tigris River on Aug. 7. Residents near the dam say the airstrikes killed militants, but that could not immediately be confirmed. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity out of fears for their safety.

08/15/2014 6:31 PM EDT

U.S. May Speed Up Aid To Iraq Despite Billions Already Spent

The United States may accelerate economic and military aid to Iraq now Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stood down, Reuters reports.

U.S. officials first want assurances that the Iraqi government has moved away from the sectarian policies of al-Maliki's administration, according to the news agency.

Read the full story here.

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