|ISIL kills 500 Yazidis, buries some victims alive||
Islamic State militants killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north of the country, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters Sunday.
Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the terrorists had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.
"We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar," Sudani said in a telephone interview, in his first remarks to the media on the issue.
Sinjar is the ancient home of the Yazidis, one of the towns captured by the militants who view the community as "devil worshipers" and tell them to convert to Islam or face death.
A deadline passed at midday on Sunday for 300 Yazidi families to convert to Islam or face death at the hands of the militants. It was not immediately clear whether the Iraqi minister was talking about the fate of those families or others in the conflict.
"Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar," Sudani said.
In another development, at least 20,000 civilians who had been besieged by terrorists on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said Sunday.
The breakthrough coincided with U.S. air raids on Islamic State fighters in the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq Saturday.
Shawkat Barbahari, an official from the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq put the number of people who escaped the siege and crossed back into Iraqi Kurdistan at 30,000.
"The Kurdish peshmerga forces have succeeded in making 30,000 Yazidis who fled Mount Sinjar, most of them women and children, cross into Syria and return to Kurdistan," said Barbahari, who is in charge of the Fishkhabur crossing with Syria.
"Most of them crossed yesterday and today, this operation is ongoing and we really don't know how many are still up there on the mountain," he told AFP.
Lawmaker Vian Dakhil, who is from the Yazidi minority most of the Mount Sinjar displaced belong to, said 20,000 to 30,000 had managed to flee and were now in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"20,000 to 30,000 have managed to flee Mount Sinjar but there are still thousands on the mountain," she told AFP. "They have arrived in Kurdistan."
"The passage isn't 100 percent safe. There is still a risk," she added, as the international community ramped up efforts to provide food and water by airdrops to those still stranded.
Thousands of terrified people, mostly from minorities that have been persecuted by the terrorists, ran to the mountain a week ago when militants overran the Sinjar region.
They found themselves trapped on the mountain in the searing summer heat with little to eat or drink.
French FM arrives in Iraq for talks
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived in Baghdad Sunday for talks with officials on efforts to confront Islamic State militants, state television reported.
Kurdish officials said Fabius would later travel to their regional capital Irbil for further talks.
ISIL commanders killed in army operations
Meanwhile, three commanders of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group, one of them a Saudi national, were killed in Iraqi army’s air strikes in al-Anbar province.
The Iraqi air force struck the ISIL hideouts in the city of Haditha in Anbar province on Saturday, killing three ISIL commanders.
In another incident, Kurdish peshmerga forces, backed by volunteer fighters, foiled an ISIL offensive on Tuz Khurmatu, a town in Salaheddin province, killing around 40 militants and forcing them to retreat, a local official said.
Five volunteer fighters also were killed in the fighting.
The Islamic State has captured wide swaths of northern Iraq since June, executing non-Sunni captives, displacing tens of thousands of people and drawing the first U.S. air strikes in the region since Washington withdrew troops in 2011.
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