Yazidi activist claims President Obama’s statement that a military evacuation of Mount Sinjar was no longer necessary encouraged Isis militants
A leading Yazidi politician said yesterday that he was preparing to make a last stand in his home village in northern Iraq, as members of the religious minority warned that another massacre of civilians by the extremist militants of the Islamic State (formerly Isis) showed that the crisis was far from over. The United Nations said it was trying to confirm reports of the worst single atrocity against Yazidis since the Islamic State offensive began on 3 August, with two separate sources saying up to 400 men had been executed in the village of Kocho after refusing to convert to Islam.
Last night, Kurdish forces backed by US air strikes were attempting to retake control of the Mosul Dam, which helps power parts of northern Iraq, with some eyewitness reports claiming a ground offensive had been launched as part of the operation. Eleven fighters from Islamic State, which has controlled the dam since 7 August, were said to have been killed. The strikes came a day after Barack Obama said it was no longer necessary to carry out a military evacuation of Mount Sinjar – where tens of thousands of people had been trapped by militants earlier – since many people had managed to escape following US air strikes.
But a leading Yazidi activist, Dr Mirza Dinnayi, who had spoken to Kocho’s senior official before the massacre, claimed there were still 25,000 people in the area and described Mr Obama’s remarks as “a very big mistake”.
When the US said that the siege of Sinjar was effectively over, “this encouraged Islamic State to attack 24 hours later”, he told Jonathan Rugman, of Channel 4 News. “We had a massacre yesterday [and] could have another.”
A humanitarian mission to rescue thousands of Yazidis trapped in Iraq is “far less likely” to take place after an assessment carried out by a US team.
US Army Special Forces soldiers and a US Agency for International Development (USAID) team spent several hours on the mountain speaking to refugees on Wednesday.
They have since returned to Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region, and reported fewer Yazidis remain trapped on the mountain than previously feared.
Some 5,000 refugees remain stranded on Mount Sinjar, according to Sky sources. Continue reading
Two American aid flights have also made it to the mountain, where they have dropped off more than 36,000 meals and 7,000 gallons of drinking water to help the refugees, and last night two RAF C-130 transport planes were also on the way.
However, Iraqi officials said that much of the US aid had been “useless” because it was dropped from 15,000ft without parachutes and exploded on impact.
Handfuls of refugees have managed to escape on the helicopters but many are being left behind because the craft are unable to land on the rocky mountainside. There, they face thirst and starvation, as well as the crippling heat of midsummer.
Hundreds, if not more, have already died, including scores of children. A Yazidi Iraqi MP, Vian Dakhil, told reporters in Baghdad:
“We have one or two days left to help these people. After that they will start dying en masse.” Continue reading