’IS’ Occupies Largest Iraqi Christian Town, Thousands Trapped in Mountains as Terrorists Threaten to Kill Them
The so-called "Islamic State" terrorists took over Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian town, and surrounding areas when Kurdish troops withdrew overnight, fleeing residents and Christian clerics said on Thursday.
"I now know that the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants," Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, said.
Several residents confirmed that the entire area in northern Iraq, home to a large part of the country's Christian community, had fallen to the extremist group.
Qaraqosh is an entirely Christian town which lies between Mosul, the extremists' main hub in Iraq, and Arbil, the Kurdish region's capital. It usually has a population of around 50,000.
"It's a catastrophe, a tragic situation. We call on the UN Security Council to immediately intervene. Tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak, it cannot be described," the archbishop said.
Tal Kayf, the home of a significant Christian community as well as members of the Shabak Shiite minority, also emptied overnight.
"Tal Kayf is now in the hands of the "Islamic State". They faced no resistance and rolled in just after midnight," said Boutros Sargon, a resident who fled the town and was reached by phone in Arbil.
"I heard some gunshots last night and when I looked outside, I saw a military convoy from the "Islamic State"," he said.
Meanwhile, thousands from the minority Yazidi community are stranded in the mountains of northwestern Iraq. If they make a move, they face slaughter at the hands of so-called "Islamic State" surrounding them. However, they risk dying of dehydration if they stay put.
Many of those trapped are women and children taking refuge in nine locations on Mount Sinjar - a craggy ridge which, as legend has it, was the last resting place of Noah's ark.
Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi lawmaker, said the siege has already cost many lives, including children.
"Seventy children have already died of thirst and 30 elderly people have also died," she told the Guardian. "Over the past 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar Mountains, with no water and no food."
Baghdad sent helicopters to drop supplies to people on the mountain, though the amounts were limited.
"Food is low, ammunition is low and so is water. We have one piece of bread to share between 10 people. We have to walk two kilometers to get water. There were some air strikes yesterday [against the extremists], but they have made no difference," Nafiee, a man hiding on the mountain, said.
At least 500 Yazidis, including 40 children, have already been killed over the past week. Many more have received death threats, from "IS" militants.
Another 130,000 Yazidis have fled the city of Sinjar for Dohuk and Irbil in the Kurdish controlled north, where authorities are struggling to cope with one of the biggest refugee movements in decades.
"We are being told to convert or to lose our heads. There is no one coming to help. They were our neighbors and now they are our killers," said Khuldoon Atyas, who stayed behind to look after his family's crops. Before the siege, Sinjar was home to 300,000 people.
One man told Amnesty International that 30 members from two families were seized by "IS" from the village of Khana Sor, located northwest of Sinjar.
"They took the 15 men and took the women and children and until now we do not know what happened to them, where they are or if they are alive or dead," he said.
"It's not like this is a one-off incident. We are almost back to square zero in terms of the preparedness and the supplies. Enormous numbers of people have been crossing the border since June," said UNICEF spokeswoman Juliette Touma.
"We are being slaughtered. Our entire region is being wiped off the face of the earth. I am begging you in the name of humanity," Kurdish MP Vian Dakhill said as she broke down in tears in parliament.
Kurdish peshmerga forces are reportedly in the area and have said they are starting to fight back. However, they are only lightly armed and have been unable to reach the refugees.
The UN Security Council said the "IS" militants pose a threat not only to Iraq and Syria, but to "regional peace, security and stability."
"Widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable," the Security Council said in a statement.Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team