08/09/2014 05:45 pm ET Updated Aug 12, 2014

Fears Remain For Yazidis Still Trapped In Mountains

Some members of an Iraqi minority community on the run from ISIS militias have reportedly escaped the mountains where they had been stranded, but thousands more may still be in danger.

Several thousand Yazidis were reported on Saturday to have reached safety in Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria. Yazidis -- who follow an ancient religious tradition linked to Zoroastrianism -- are regarded as heretics by the extremist Islamic State group that has seized territory across Iraq and Syria. The Yazidis fled the militants' advance earlier this week, but thousands found themselves trapped in the Sinjar Mountains in Northwestern Iraq, where many died of dehydration rather than risk being slaughtered by ISIS gunmen below.

Kurdish officials told the Associated Press that Syrian Kurdish fighters opened a safe passage from the mountains Thursday night, allowing some 20,000 Yazidis to make their way toward refuge in Syria.

Kurdish TV station KurdSat released footage it said showed Saturday's rescue of families in the mountains.

Earlier, Kurdish news organization Rudaw said Iraqi Kurdish troops also opened a route for Yazidis to the Iraqi Kurdish region, and released dramatic footage it said was of the forces conducting a helicopter aid drop.

Yet it is not clear how many Yazidis remain stranded amid the continued fighting. The population who fled the Islamic State offensive this week has been estimated at between tens of thousands to 100,000 people.

Brendan McDonald, a UN humanitarian officer in Iraq, told the WorldPost on Saturday that the United Nations has still not been able to access the mountains because of the continued fighting.

If Iraqi and Kurdish forces are able to open a safe passage, humanitarian agencies are ready to provide aid to the displaced families, he said.

Osamah Mohammed, a Kurdish journalist in Iraq, wrote on Twitter that Yazidi families remained on the run on Saturday as the Islamic State militants advance.

The Sinjar mountain range extends 25 miles near Iraq's border with Syria, and is close to the Kurdish city of Dohuk, where thousands of Yazidis have also sought refuge during the Islamic State assault.

Officials told the Associated Press on Saturday that Kurdish troops and the Yazidi families are still under fire from Islamic State militants as they leave the mountains. Nine Kurdish fighters have been killed protecting the displaced community since Friday, one official said.

Members of the Yazidi community in the mountains told Britain's Channel 4 News that they feared the Islamic State's continued approach.



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.