Details emerged on Saturday of a ‘massacre’ carried out by Islamic State (IS) militants in a northern Iraq village, as world powers ramped up efforts to cut their funding, arm Kurds battling them and assist those they displaced.
Dozens of civilians were killed, most of them followers of the Yazidi faith, officials said as IS fighters pressed their offensive against minority groups in the north.
“Militants entered the Kocho village on Friday and committed a massacre,” senior Iraqi official Hoshyar Zebari told AFP, citing sources from the region and intelligence reports. “Around 80 of them have been killed,” he said.
A senior official of one of Iraq’s main Kurdish parties said 81 people had lost their lives, while a Yazidi activist said the death toll could be even higher.
Reports of a second massacre in the same village also emerged later on Saturday, with local officials claiming the death toll could be as high as 300.
In Kocho, Zebari said the militants “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.
Mohsen Tawwal, a Yazidi fighter, said he saw a large number of bodies in Kocho. “We made it into a part of Kocho, where residents were under siege, but we were too late,” he told AFP by telephone.
A Kurdish official said the militants had taken the village’s women to prisons they control.
Meanwhile, Kurdish forces supported by US air strikes are battling to retake Mosul dam from Islamic State (IS) fighters in northern Iraq.
The operation to recapture the country’s largest dam began early on Saturday with raids by F-18 fighters and drones, US officials said. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have shelled militants’ positions, and there is an unconfirmed report of a ground attack. At least 11 IS fighters have been killed, sources in Mosul told BBC News.
In New York, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at weakening IS, which controls 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.
Meanwhile, EU ministers agreed at an emergency meeting in Brussels to back weapons deliveries to Iraqi Kurdish fighters who have been battling to halt the advance of IS.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Iraq Saturday to meet officials and assess what help is needed.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2014.
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