ISIS kidnap more than 3,000 women and girls in two weeks rampage
An Iraqi Yazidi woman, who fled her home when Islamic State (IS) militants attacked the town of Sinjar, looks at her baby as they rest inside a building under construction where they found refuge on the outskirts of the Kurdish city of Dohuk, in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 16, 2014. [AFP]
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These are the faces of six of the thousands of innocent Yazidi children who have suffered harrowing ordeals in Iraq this month.
Up to 3,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by Islamic State jihadis in the north of the country in just a fortnight - and hundreds of men who refuse to convert have been shot dead.
The kidnappings appear to have happened in villages where residents took up arms against IS - and the women are being held separately from the men in IS-controlled Tal Afar, east of Mount Sinjar.
Some 200,000 people escaped to safety in Iraq's Kurdish region, but others remain on the mountain.
Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser, told the Agence France-Presse news agency: ‘The victims are of all ages, from babies to elderly men and women.’
‘It seems they took away entire families, all those who did not manage to flee. We fear the men may have been executed.’
Two women - Leila Khalaf and Wadhan Khalaf - were among those kidnapped from Mujamma Jazira village, said their relative Dakhil Atto Solo.
He added that the abductions happened after residents tried to resist the IS attack, telling AFP: ‘Of course we tried to defend our villages, but they had much bigger weapons.
‘All we had were our Kalashnikovs. They executed 300 men, and took the women to their prisons. Only God can save them now.’ Their children, said Mr Solo, were rescued by the family.
‘But the women were in a house surrounded by IS. We had to escape. Now, the children cry for their mothers all the time. "Mama, mama," they wail. But there is no mama, we tell them.’
His comments on the dire situation came as Islamic extremists shot dead scores of Yazidi men, lining them up in small groups and opening fire with assault rifles before seizing their wives and children.
'The victims are of all ages, from babies to elderly men and women. It seems they took away entire families, all those who did not manage to flee. We fear the men may have been executed'
Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International
A Yazidi politician cited the mass killing in Kocho as evidence that his people were still at risk after a week of US and Iraqi air strikes on the militants.
Meanwhile, warplanes targeted insurgents around a large dam that was captured by the IS extremist group earlier this month.
US Central Command said the strikes were launched under the authority to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect US staff and facilities.
Central Command says the nine air strikes conducted so far had destroyed or damaged four armoured personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armoured vehicle.
The US began strikes against IS a week ago, in part to prevent the massacre of tens of thousands of Yazidis in northern Iraq.
They fled the militants by scrambling up a barren mountain, where they became stranded. Most were eventually able to escape with help from Kurdish fighters.
IS fighters surrounded the nearby village 12 days ago and demanded that its Yazidi residents convert or die. On Friday afternoon, they moved in.
'All we had were our Kalashnikovs. They executed 300 men, and took the women to their prisons. Only God can save them now'
Dakhil Atto Solo, relative of kidnapped women
The militants told people to gather in a school, promising they would be allowed to leave Kocho after their details were recorded, said an eyewitness and the brother of the Kocho mayor, Nayef Jassem.
The militants separated the men from the women and children under 12. They took men and male teens away in groups of a few dozen each and shot them on the edge of the village, according to a wounded man who escaped by feigning death.
The fighters then walked among the bodies, using pistols to finish off anyone who appeared to still be alive, the 42-year-old man said from an area where he was hiding.
‘They thought we were dead, and when they went away, we ran away. We hid in a valley until sundown, and then we fled to the mountains,’ he said.
A Yazidi politician, a Kurdish security official and an Iraqi official from the nearby city of Sinjar gave similar accounts, saying Islamic State fighters had massacred many Yazidi men on Friday after seizing Kocho.
'They thought we were dead, and when they went away, we ran away. We hid in a valley until sundown, and then we fled to the mountains'
Man who escaped from militants
All said they based their information on the accounts of survivors. Their accounts matched those of two other Yazidi men, Qassim Hussein and Nayef Jassem, who said they spoke to other survivors.
It was not clear precisely how many men were killed. Iraqi and Kurdish officials said at least 80 men were shot.
Yazidi residents said they believed the number was higher, because there were at least 175 families in Kocho, and few were able to escape before the militants surrounded their hamlet.
Yesterday Britain deployed a US-made spy plane over northern Iraq to monitor the humanitarian crisis and movements of the militants.
The converted Boeing KC-135 tanker, called a Rivet Joint, was monitoring mobile phone calls and other communication.
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