Minority Yazidis in Iraq are reportedly buried alive as the US steps up airstrikes against the Islamic State, which declares ‘caliphate’ in the region.
Militants for the Islamic State (IS) have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north of the country, according to Iraq’s human rights minister.
Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children, Reuters reported. About 300 women were kidnapped as slaves.
The US has carried out further airstrikes against IS after President Barack Obama admitted their progress through Iraq had been quicker than expected. He anticipates a prolonged campaign against the group whose spread is seen to threaten Middle East stability.
The US is trying to aid thousands of Yazidis who fled the IS advance, trying to stem a worsening humanitarian crisis in a country reeling from the extremist offensive.
WATCH: President Obama details American operations in Iraq. http://t.co/RVeQ4kpUfr
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 9, 2014
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has urged Iraq’s bickering leaders to form an inclusive government capable of countering the IS militants.
“All Iraqis should feel that they are represented in this government, and all Iraqis should feel they are represented to take part in this battle against terrorism,” he told a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad.
IS has captured wide swathes of northern Iraq since June, executing non-Sunni Muslim captives and minorities, displacing tens of thousands of people and provoking the first US air strikes in the region since Washington withdrew troops in 2011.
After routing Kurdish forces last week, the militants are just 30 minutes’ drive from Irbil, the Iraqi Kurdish capital, which until now has been spared the sectarian bloodshed that has scarred other parts of Iraq for a decade.
US President Barack Obama said on Saturday there was no quick fix for the crisis and urged Iraqi leaders to form an inclusive government that could ease sectarian tensions and unite Iraqis against IS.
Britain and France have also pledged to deliver humanitarian supplies to people trapped by the militant advance.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the UK was especially concerned by the fate of Yazidis who cornered in their ancient homeland of Sinjar in mountainous northern Iraq.
Islamic State militants have surrounded 300 Yazidi families and told them to covert to Islam or face death – imposing a deadline due to expires at noon on Sunday local time.