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Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

CAMP BAJID KANDALA, Iraq (AP) — With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped into a camp for displaced Iraqis, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop after fleeing from the extremist Islamic State group.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp. At least 56 children died in the mountains, Juliette Touma of the U.N. children’s agency estimated.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so desperate is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The displacement of at least tens of thousands of Yazidis – Kurdish speakers who practice an ancient Mesopotamian faith – meant yet another Iraqi minority was peeled away as the Islamic State extremists continue their sweep of Iraq, seizing territory they brutally administer. The Islamic State group fighters already forced the expulsion of Iraqi Christians, Shiite Muslims and adherents of the tiny Shabak faith. The hardliners see other religious groups as heretics who may be killed or forced to submit to their rule.

After a global outcry, the U.S. and Iraqi air force began airdropping food and water to Yazidis stranded on a mountaintop. The British military also helped in the airdrop.

It seemed to barely dent the suffering of the Yazidis in the Bajid Kandala camp, miles from the Iraqi border.

It was already crammed with 30,000 people, squashed into tents lined over rolling hills. Nearby, bulldozers were breaking earth to put up new tents. Camp guards expected thousands more to arrive by Sunday.

The extended Qassem family from the town of Khanasor arrived on Saturday evening. The children were already sprawled asleep on a mat, oblivious to the noise. The men, sporting traditional long Yazidi moustaches, hauled water bottles, tuna cans and chocolate distributed by aid workers. A woman wearing a purple headscarf, stood nearby and sobbed.

Iraq’s Yazidis, who mostly live in a cluster of villages near the Iraq-Syria border, fled on August 3, hearing that Islamic State militants were approaching. Residents rushed in a panic to the nearby mountain chain of Sinjar, said the men of the Qassem family.

They couldn’t take the roads because the militants had seized checkpoints once manned by Kurdish forces.

“We were so afraid, everybody only thought of themselves. I even left my uncle behind,” said one Qassem family man, Abu Saado, of the panicked flight, pointing to a cross-eyed man sitting beside him. They rejoined in the mountains.

They were among the 50,000 Yazidis that UNICEF estimated had fled into the mountain chain. For days, there was no escape as extremists blocked the roads.

“We thought we would die in the mountain, but it was better than them taking our women,” said Abu Saado, referring to widespread fears that Yazidi women would be raped or sold off as concubines to the extremists.

Maher, 16, of the Qassem family, but from the village of Yarmouk, said he watched with binoculars that he stole from a soldier, as Islamic State fighters stopped tens of people.

“They separated the men and women, and they took some of the women away on trucks. They shot the men,” he said. “I went crazy. I couldn’t sleep, eat or drink, I couldn’t talk to anybody.”

Another man from a different village told a similar story of watching from a mountain as militants killed men and took the women away.

Yazidis of two villages, Koshto and Hatmiya, were initially promised safety if they stayed, said a schoolteacher. But on Friday, they were told they had three days to decide: convert to the Muslim faith, or be killed, said Saldo Saado, who said panicked residents were calling him.

Their stories were impossible to verify, but U.N. officials and aid workers reported similar stories of suffering on the Sinjar mountain chain. U.S. and Iraqi officials also reported that militants had seized some women.

Distraught men showed photographs on their telephones, of piles of bodies they said were of relatives slain at militant checkpoints.

For days, members of the Qassem family said they drew rank well water on Mount Sinjar. Some ate leaves off trees until they were stripped bare. Some ate bread they stole from abandoned homes.

After days, they heard Kurdish fighters in Syria had repelled Islamic extremists in the northernmost part of the mountain chain on the border. If they could reach there, they’d be safe. Kurdish officials said they seized the area Thursday after clashes with Islamic State fighters.

The Kurdish Syrian fighters have been battling the extremists, who dominate the arc of the Euphrates river running from northern Syria, deep into Iraq.

The extended Qassem family – well over 30 people – marched for five hours, until they saw men in military uniforms in Syrian territory. Some of the Yazidi youth begged to join the fight against the militants.

“The Kurds saved us,” said Abu Saado. “Now we want to fight with them.”

As they walked to safety, more children died, said Salman Qassem, 19, of the extended family.

“The mothers left the dead children behind. There was no time to bury them. Some children were alive, but they were left in the wilderness, the adults were too weak to carry them,” he said.

Thousands of Yazidis stayed in Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria.

Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli , said 7,000 Yazidis were staying in an encampment there. They were also staying in two other encampments in the area. Mohammed estimated another 20,000 Yazidis were crossing through Syria. Officials called on the international community to help provide the Yazidi refugees with blankets, food and medical aid.

The Qassem family decided to return to Iraq, following hundreds of other people, walking and hitching over dirt tracks and paved roads, until they found passage back into Iraq to the camp for displaced people, a journey of a day and a half.

They said thousands more were left behind on the mountain, still limping along to safety.

As they spoke, more people poured into the camp in the twilight.

An elderly woman leaned on an elderly man who leant on a cane as they limped into the gated camp. A jeep crammed with dusty children parked nearby.

And finally, three little boys in bright red and black clothes patiently waited at the entrance. They were looking for their families after becoming separated in the mountains.

—-

Mroue reported from Beirut.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

CAMP BAJID KANDALA, Iraq (AP) — With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped into a camp for displaced Iraqis, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop after fleeing from the extremist Islamic State group.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp. At least 56 children died in the mountains, Juliette Touma of the U.N. children’s agency estimated.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so desperate is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The displacement of at least tens of thousands of Yazidis – Kurdish speakers who practice an ancient Mesopotamian faith – meant yet another Iraqi minority was peeled away as the Islamic State extremists continue their sweep of Iraq, seizing territory they brutally administer. The Islamic State group fighters already forced the expulsion of Iraqi Christians, Shiite Muslims and adherents of the tiny Shabak faith. The hardliners see other religious groups as heretics who may be killed or forced to submit to their rule.

After a global outcry, the U.S. and Iraqi air force began airdropping food and water to Yazidis stranded on a mountaintop. The British military also helped in the airdrop.

It seemed to barely dent the suffering of the Yazidis in the Bajid Kandala camp, miles from the Iraqi border.

It was already crammed with 30,000 people, squashed into tents lined over rolling hills. Nearby, bulldozers were breaking earth to put up new tents. Camp guards expected thousands more to arrive by Sunday.

The extended Qassem family from the town of Khanasor arrived on Saturday evening. The children were already sprawled asleep on a mat, oblivious to the noise. The men, sporting traditional long Yazidi moustaches, hauled water bottles, tuna cans and chocolate distributed by aid workers. A woman wearing a purple headscarf, stood nearby and sobbed.

Iraq’s Yazidis, who mostly live in a cluster of villages near the Iraq-Syria border, fled on August 3, hearing that Islamic State militants were approaching. Residents rushed in a panic to the nearby mountain chain of Sinjar, said the men of the Qassem family.

They couldn’t take the roads because the militants had seized checkpoints once manned by Kurdish forces.

“We were so afraid, everybody only thought of themselves. I even left my uncle behind,” said one Qassem family man, Abu Saado, of the panicked flight, pointing to a cross-eyed man sitting beside him. They rejoined in the mountains.

They were among the 50,000 Yazidis that UNICEF estimated had fled into the mountain chain. For days, there was no escape as extremists blocked the roads.

“We thought we would die in the mountain, but it was better than them taking our women,” said Abu Saado, referring to widespread fears that Yazidi women would be raped or sold off as concubines to the extremists.

Maher, 16, of the Qassem family, but from the village of Yarmouk, said he watched with binoculars that he stole from a soldier, as Islamic State fighters stopped tens of people.

“They separated the men and women, and they took some of the women away on trucks. They shot the men,” he said. “I went crazy. I couldn’t sleep, eat or drink, I couldn’t talk to anybody.”

Another man from a different village told a similar story of watching from a mountain as militants killed men and took the women away.

Yazidis of two villages, Koshto and Hatmiya, were initially promised safety if they stayed, said a schoolteacher. But on Friday, they were told they had three days to decide: convert to the Muslim faith, or be killed, said Saldo Saado, who said panicked residents were calling him.

Their stories were impossible to verify, but U.N. officials and aid workers reported similar stories of suffering on the Sinjar mountain chain. U.S. and Iraqi officials also reported that militants had seized some women.

Distraught men showed photographs on their telephones, of piles of bodies they said were of relatives slain at militant checkpoints.

For days, members of the Qassem family said they drew rank well water on Mount Sinjar. Some ate leaves off trees until they were stripped bare. Some ate bread they stole from abandoned homes.

After days, they heard Kurdish fighters in Syria had repelled Islamic extremists in the northernmost part of the mountain chain on the border. If they could reach there, they’d be safe. Kurdish officials said they seized the area Thursday after clashes with Islamic State fighters.

The Kurdish Syrian fighters have been battling the extremists, who dominate the arc of the Euphrates river running from northern Syria, deep into Iraq.

The extended Qassem family – well over 30 people – marched for five hours, until they saw men in military uniforms in Syrian territory. Some of the Yazidi youth begged to join the fight against the militants.

“The Kurds saved us,” said Abu Saado. “Now we want to fight with them.”

As they walked to safety, more children died, said Salman Qassem, 19, of the extended family.

“The mothers left the dead children behind. There was no time to bury them. Some children were alive, but they were left in the wilderness, the adults were too weak to carry them,” he said.

Thousands of Yazidis stayed in Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria.

Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli , said 7,000 Yazidis were staying in an encampment there. They were also staying in two other encampments in the area. Mohammed estimated another 20,000 Yazidis were crossing through Syria. Officials called on the international community to help provide the Yazidi refugees with blankets, food and medical aid.

The Qassem family decided to return to Iraq, following hundreds of other people, walking and hitching over dirt tracks and paved roads, until they found passage back into Iraq to the camp for displaced people, a journey of a day and a half.

They said thousands more were left behind on the mountain, still limping along to safety.

As they spoke, more people poured into the camp in the twilight.

An elderly woman leaned on an elderly man who leant on a cane as they limped into the gated camp. A jeep crammed with dusty children parked nearby.

And finally, three little boys in bright red and black clothes patiently waited at the entrance. They were looking for their families after becoming separated in the mountains.

—-

Mroue reported from Beirut.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

CAMP BAJID KANDALA, Iraq (AP) — With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped into a camp for displaced Iraqis, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop after fleeing from the extremist Islamic State group.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp. At least 56 children died in the mountains, Juliette Touma of the U.N. children’s agency estimated.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so desperate is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The displacement of at least tens of thousands of Yazidis – Kurdish speakers who practice an ancient Mesopotamian faith – meant yet another Iraqi minority was peeled away as the Islamic State extremists continue their sweep of Iraq, seizing territory they brutally administer. The Islamic State group fighters already forced the expulsion of Iraqi Christians, Shiite Muslims and adherents of the tiny Shabak faith. The hardliners see other religious groups as heretics who may be killed or forced to submit to their rule.

After a global outcry, the U.S. and Iraqi air force began airdropping food and water to Yazidis stranded on a mountaintop. The British military also helped in the airdrop.

It seemed to barely dent the suffering of the Yazidis in the Bajid Kandala camp, miles from the Iraqi border.

It was already crammed with 30,000 people, squashed into tents lined over rolling hills. Nearby, bulldozers were breaking earth to put up new tents. Camp guards expected thousands more to arrive by Sunday.

The extended Qassem family from the town of Khanasor arrived on Saturday evening. The children were already sprawled asleep on a mat, oblivious to the noise. The men, sporting traditional long Yazidi moustaches, hauled water bottles, tuna cans and chocolate distributed by aid workers. A woman wearing a purple headscarf, stood nearby and sobbed.

Iraq’s Yazidis, who mostly live in a cluster of villages near the Iraq-Syria border, fled on August 3, hearing that Islamic State militants were approaching. Residents rushed in a panic to the nearby mountain chain of Sinjar, said the men of the Qassem family.

They couldn’t take the roads because the militants had seized checkpoints once manned by Kurdish forces.

“We were so afraid, everybody only thought of themselves. I even left my uncle behind,” said one Qassem family man, Abu Saado, of the panicked flight, pointing to a cross-eyed man sitting beside him. They rejoined in the mountains.

They were among the 50,000 Yazidis that UNICEF estimated had fled into the mountain chain. For days, there was no escape as extremists blocked the roads.

“We thought we would die in the mountain, but it was better than them taking our women,” said Abu Saado, referring to widespread fears that Yazidi women would be raped or sold off as concubines to the extremists.

Maher, 16, of the Qassem family, but from the village of Yarmouk, said he watched with binoculars that he stole from a soldier, as Islamic State fighters stopped tens of people.

“They separated the men and women, and they took some of the women away on trucks. They shot the men,” he said. “I went crazy. I couldn’t sleep, eat or drink, I couldn’t talk to anybody.”

Another man from a different village told a similar story of watching from a mountain as militants killed men and took the women away.

Yazidis of two villages, Koshto and Hatmiya, were initially promised safety if they stayed, said a schoolteacher. But on Friday, they were told they had three days to decide: convert to the Muslim faith, or be killed, said Saldo Saado, who said panicked residents were calling him.

Their stories were impossible to verify, but U.N. officials and aid workers reported similar stories of suffering on the Sinjar mountain chain. U.S. and Iraqi officials also reported that militants had seized some women.

Distraught men showed photographs on their telephones, of piles of bodies they said were of relatives slain at militant checkpoints.

For days, members of the Qassem family said they drew rank well water on Mount Sinjar. Some ate leaves off trees until they were stripped bare. Some ate bread they stole from abandoned homes.

After days, they heard Kurdish fighters in Syria had repelled Islamic extremists in the northernmost part of the mountain chain on the border. If they could reach there, they’d be safe. Kurdish officials said they seized the area Thursday after clashes with Islamic State fighters.

The Kurdish Syrian fighters have been battling the extremists, who dominate the arc of the Euphrates river running from northern Syria, deep into Iraq.

The extended Qassem family – well over 30 people – marched for five hours, until they saw men in military uniforms in Syrian territory. Some of the Yazidi youth begged to join the fight against the militants.

“The Kurds saved us,” said Abu Saado. “Now we want to fight with them.”

As they walked to safety, more children died, said Salman Qassem, 19, of the extended family.

“The mothers left the dead children behind. There was no time to bury them. Some children were alive, but they were left in the wilderness, the adults were too weak to carry them,” he said.

Thousands of Yazidis stayed in Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria.

Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli , said 7,000 Yazidis were staying in an encampment there. They were also staying in two other encampments in the area. Mohammed estimated another 20,000 Yazidis were crossing through Syria. Officials called on the international community to help provide the Yazidi refugees with blankets, food and medical aid.

The Qassem family decided to return to Iraq, following hundreds of other people, walking and hitching over dirt tracks and paved roads, until they found passage back into Iraq to the camp for displaced people, a journey of a day and a half.

They said thousands more were left behind on the mountain, still limping along to safety.

As they spoke, more people poured into the camp in the twilight.

An elderly woman leaned on an elderly man who leant on a cane as they limped into the gated camp. A jeep crammed with dusty children parked nearby.

And finally, three little boys in bright red and black clothes patiently waited at the entrance. They were looking for their families after becoming separated in the mountains.

—-

Mroue reported from Beirut.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

CAMP BAJID KANDALA, Iraq (AP) — With shocked, sunburnt faces, men, women and children in dirt-caked clothes limped into a camp for displaced Iraqis, finding safety after harsh days of hiding on a blazing mountaintop after fleeing from the extremist Islamic State group.

Children who died of thirst were left behind; some exhausted mothers abandoned living babies, as thousands of Yazidis trekked across a rocky mountain chain in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), crossing into neighboring Syria, and then looping back into Iraq to reach safety at the Bajid Kandala camp. At least 56 children died in the mountains, Juliette Touma of the U.N. children’s agency estimated.

Other Yazidis have settled in refugee camps in Syria: so desperate is their situation, they have sought safety in a country aflame in a civil war.

The displacement of at least tens of thousands of Yazidis – Kurdish speakers who practice an ancient Mesopotamian faith – meant yet another Iraqi minority was peeled away as the Islamic State extremists continue their sweep of Iraq, seizing territory they brutally administer. The Islamic State group fighters already forced the expulsion of Iraqi Christians, Shiite Muslims and adherents of the tiny Shabak faith. The hardliners see other religious groups as heretics who may be killed or forced to submit to their rule.

After a global outcry, the U.S. and Iraqi air force began airdropping food and water to Yazidis stranded on a mountaintop. The British military also helped in the airdrop.

It seemed to barely dent the suffering of the Yazidis in the Bajid Kandala camp, miles from the Iraqi border.

It was already crammed with 30,000 people, squashed into tents lined over rolling hills. Nearby, bulldozers were breaking earth to put up new tents. Camp guards expected thousands more to arrive by Sunday.

The extended Qassem family from the town of Khanasor arrived on Saturday evening. The children were already sprawled asleep on a mat, oblivious to the noise. The men, sporting traditional long Yazidi moustaches, hauled water bottles, tuna cans and chocolate distributed by aid workers. A woman wearing a purple headscarf, stood nearby and sobbed.

Iraq’s Yazidis, who mostly live in a cluster of villages near the Iraq-Syria border, fled on August 3, hearing that Islamic State militants were approaching. Residents rushed in a panic to the nearby mountain chain of Sinjar, said the men of the Qassem family.

They couldn’t take the roads because the militants had seized checkpoints once manned by Kurdish forces.

“We were so afraid, everybody only thought of themselves. I even left my uncle behind,” said one Qassem family man, Abu Saado, of the panicked flight, pointing to a cross-eyed man sitting beside him. They rejoined in the mountains.

They were among the 50,000 Yazidis that UNICEF estimated had fled into the mountain chain. For days, there was no escape as extremists blocked the roads.

“We thought we would die in the mountain, but it was better than them taking our women,” said Abu Saado, referring to widespread fears that Yazidi women would be raped or sold off as concubines to the extremists.

Maher, 16, of the Qassem family, but from the village of Yarmouk, said he watched with binoculars that he stole from a soldier, as Islamic State fighters stopped tens of people.

“They separated the men and women, and they took some of the women away on trucks. They shot the men,” he said. “I went crazy. I couldn’t sleep, eat or drink, I couldn’t talk to anybody.”

Another man from a different village told a similar story of watching from a mountain as militants killed men and took the women away.

Yazidis of two villages, Koshto and Hatmiya, were initially promised safety if they stayed, said a schoolteacher. But on Friday, they were told they had three days to decide: convert to the Muslim faith, or be killed, said Saldo Saado, who said panicked residents were calling him.

Their stories were impossible to verify, but U.N. officials and aid workers reported similar stories of suffering on the Sinjar mountain chain. U.S. and Iraqi officials also reported that militants had seized some women.

Distraught men showed photographs on their telephones, of piles of bodies they said were of relatives slain at militant checkpoints.

For days, members of the Qassem family said they drew rank well water on Mount Sinjar. Some ate leaves off trees until they were stripped bare. Some ate bread they stole from abandoned homes.

After days, they heard Kurdish fighters in Syria had repelled Islamic extremists in the northernmost part of the mountain chain on the border. If they could reach there, they’d be safe. Kurdish officials said they seized the area Thursday after clashes with Islamic State fighters.

The Kurdish Syrian fighters have been battling the extremists, who dominate the arc of the Euphrates river running from northern Syria, deep into Iraq.

The extended Qassem family – well over 30 people – marched for five hours, until they saw men in military uniforms in Syrian territory. Some of the Yazidi youth begged to join the fight against the militants.

“The Kurds saved us,” said Abu Saado. “Now we want to fight with them.”

As they walked to safety, more children died, said Salman Qassem, 19, of the extended family.

“The mothers left the dead children behind. There was no time to bury them. Some children were alive, but they were left in the wilderness, the adults were too weak to carry them,” he said.

Thousands of Yazidis stayed in Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria.

Juan Mohammed, a local government spokesman in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli , said 7,000 Yazidis were staying in an encampment there. They were also staying in two other encampments in the area. Mohammed estimated another 20,000 Yazidis were crossing through Syria. Officials called on the international community to help provide the Yazidi refugees with blankets, food and medical aid.

The Qassem family decided to return to Iraq, following hundreds of other people, walking and hitching over dirt tracks and paved roads, until they found passage back into Iraq to the camp for displaced people, a journey of a day and a half.

They said thousands more were left behind on the mountain, still limping along to safety.

As they spoke, more people poured into the camp in the twilight.

An elderly woman leaned on an elderly man who leant on a cane as they limped into the gated camp. A jeep crammed with dusty children parked nearby.

And finally, three little boys in bright red and black clothes patiently waited at the entrance. They were looking for their families after becoming separated in the mountains.

—-

Mroue reported from Beirut.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of members of a religious minority group under attack by Islamic extremists have fled across the border from Iraq to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria, said two Kurdish officials and an activist on Saturday.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said thousands of people have fled from Iraq into Syria but had no exact number.

The U.S. has launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop near the Syria border for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking minority practicing an ancient pre-Islamic religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

Mohammed, a spokesman for the local administration in the Syrian city of Qamishli, said there are currently about 7,000 people in Norouz Camp, which has about 300 tents, as well as thousands others who have arrived in other parts of the region.

“We are doing all we can to bring them to Rojava,” Mohammed said giving the name used by Kurds to refer to a predominantly Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. “People are dying on the way.”

He added that some women have lost their children on the way because of exhaustion and fear. Talking about Yazidis who were able to make it into Syria he said they are arriving “in miserable conditions. They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind.”

“If we don’t help those people they will be subjected to genocide,” said Mohammed referring to the people who are still in Iraq.

Mohammed said more than 20,000 Yazidis are on their way to Syria through the safe route but they and Kurdish fighters are coming under attack by Islamic State group fighters. He said that so far nine Kurdish fighters have been killed since Friday between Iraq and Syria while protecting the fleeing Yazidis.

Hasso, an official at administration of the Syrian Kurdish region known as Jazeera, said Kurdish fighters with the People’s Protection Units were able to open the safe route Thursday night after intense clashes with the Islamic State that left dozens dead or wounded. He said the majority of Iraqis arriving are Yazidis in addition to a smaller numbers of Christians.

The units are dominated by members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, Syria’s most powerful Kurdish group, affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish movement PKK, which long fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Members of the units have been fighting against jihadis in northern Syria since last year and have been able to force them out of predominantly Kurdish areas. The oil-rich northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh has its own Christians and Yazidis populations.

“Our (local) government is on alert and we call upon international relief agencies to come here and help us. We need tents, blankets and food,” said Hasso by telephone from the Norouz camp. He added that three other camps are also receiving Iraqis who are fleeing.

“The conditions are catastrophic here and our capabilities are very modest,” Hasso said adding that some Syrians have received Iraqis in their homes while others are donating food and clothes.

The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as infidels, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of members of a religious minority group under attack by Islamic extremists have fled across the border from Iraq to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria, said two Kurdish officials and an activist on Saturday.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said thousands of people have fled from Iraq into Syria but had no exact number.

The U.S. has launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop near the Syria border for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking minority practicing an ancient pre-Islamic religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

Mohammed, a spokesman for the local administration in the Syrian city of Qamishli, said there are currently about 7,000 people in Norouz Camp, which has about 300 tents, as well as thousands others who have arrived in other parts of the region.

“We are doing all we can to bring them to Rojava,” Mohammed said giving the name used by Kurds to refer to a predominantly Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. “People are dying on the way.”

He added that some women have lost their children on the way because of exhaustion and fear. Talking about Yazidis who were able to make it into Syria he said they are arriving “in miserable conditions. They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind.”

“If we don’t help those people they will be subjected to genocide,” said Mohammed referring to the people who are still in Iraq.

Mohammed said more than 20,000 Yazidis are on their way to Syria through the safe route but they and Kurdish fighters are coming under attack by Islamic State group fighters. He said that so far nine Kurdish fighters have been killed since Friday between Iraq and Syria while protecting the fleeing Yazidis.

Hasso, an official at administration of the Syrian Kurdish region known as Jazeera, said Kurdish fighters with the People’s Protection Units were able to open the safe route Thursday night after intense clashes with the Islamic State that left dozens dead or wounded. He said the majority of Iraqis arriving are Yazidis in addition to a smaller numbers of Christians.

The units are dominated by members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, Syria’s most powerful Kurdish group, affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish movement PKK, which long fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Members of the units have been fighting against jihadis in northern Syria since last year and have been able to force them out of predominantly Kurdish areas. The oil-rich northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh has its own Christians and Yazidis populations.

“Our (local) government is on alert and we call upon international relief agencies to come here and help us. We need tents, blankets and food,” said Hasso by telephone from the Norouz camp. He added that three other camps are also receiving Iraqis who are fleeing.

“The conditions are catastrophic here and our capabilities are very modest,” Hasso said adding that some Syrians have received Iraqis in their homes while others are donating food and clothes.

The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as infidels, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of members of a religious minority group under attack by Islamic extremists have fled across the border from Iraq to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria, said two Kurdish officials and an activist on Saturday.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said thousands of people have fled from Iraq into Syria but had no exact number.

The U.S. has launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop near the Syria border for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking minority practicing an ancient pre-Islamic religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

Mohammed, a spokesman for the local administration in the Syrian city of Qamishli, said there are currently about 7,000 people in Norouz Camp, which has about 300 tents, as well as thousands others who have arrived in other parts of the region.

“We are doing all we can to bring them to Rojava,” Mohammed said giving the name used by Kurds to refer to a predominantly Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. “People are dying on the way.”

He added that some women have lost their children on the way because of exhaustion and fear. Talking about Yazidis who were able to make it into Syria he said they are arriving “in miserable conditions. They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind.”

“If we don’t help those people they will be subjected to genocide,” said Mohammed referring to the people who are still in Iraq.

Mohammed said more than 20,000 Yazidis are on their way to Syria through the safe route but they and Kurdish fighters are coming under attack by Islamic State group fighters. He said that so far nine Kurdish fighters have been killed since Friday between Iraq and Syria while protecting the fleeing Yazidis.

Hasso, an official at administration of the Syrian Kurdish region known as Jazeera, said Kurdish fighters with the People’s Protection Units were able to open the safe route Thursday night after intense clashes with the Islamic State that left dozens dead or wounded. He said the majority of Iraqis arriving are Yazidis in addition to a smaller numbers of Christians.

The units are dominated by members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, Syria’s most powerful Kurdish group, affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish movement PKK, which long fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Members of the units have been fighting against jihadis in northern Syria since last year and have been able to force them out of predominantly Kurdish areas. The oil-rich northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh has its own Christians and Yazidis populations.

“Our (local) government is on alert and we call upon international relief agencies to come here and help us. We need tents, blankets and food,” said Hasso by telephone from the Norouz camp. He added that three other camps are also receiving Iraqis who are fleeing.

“The conditions are catastrophic here and our capabilities are very modest,” Hasso said adding that some Syrians have received Iraqis in their homes while others are donating food and clothes.

The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as infidels, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of members of a religious minority group under attack by Islamic extremists have fled across the border from Iraq to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria, said two Kurdish officials and an activist on Saturday.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said thousands of people have fled from Iraq into Syria but had no exact number.

The U.S. has launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop near the Syria border for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking minority practicing an ancient pre-Islamic religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

Mohammed, a spokesman for the local administration in the Syrian city of Qamishli, said there are currently about 7,000 people in Norouz Camp, which has about 300 tents, as well as thousands others who have arrived in other parts of the region.

“We are doing all we can to bring them to Rojava,” Mohammed said giving the name used by Kurds to refer to a predominantly Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. “People are dying on the way.”

He added that some women have lost their children on the way because of exhaustion and fear. Talking about Yazidis who were able to make it into Syria he said they are arriving “in miserable conditions. They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind.”

“If we don’t help those people they will be subjected to genocide,” said Mohammed referring to the people who are still in Iraq.

Mohammed said more than 20,000 Yazidis are on their way to Syria through the safe route but they and Kurdish fighters are coming under attack by Islamic State group fighters. He said that so far nine Kurdish fighters have been killed since Friday between Iraq and Syria while protecting the fleeing Yazidis.

Hasso, an official at administration of the Syrian Kurdish region known as Jazeera, said Kurdish fighters with the People’s Protection Units were able to open the safe route Thursday night after intense clashes with the Islamic State that left dozens dead or wounded. He said the majority of Iraqis arriving are Yazidis in addition to a smaller numbers of Christians.

The units are dominated by members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, Syria’s most powerful Kurdish group, affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish movement PKK, which long fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Members of the units have been fighting against jihadis in northern Syria since last year and have been able to force them out of predominantly Kurdish areas. The oil-rich northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh has its own Christians and Yazidis populations.

“Our (local) government is on alert and we call upon international relief agencies to come here and help us. We need tents, blankets and food,” said Hasso by telephone from the Norouz camp. He added that three other camps are also receiving Iraqis who are fleeing.

“The conditions are catastrophic here and our capabilities are very modest,” Hasso said adding that some Syrians have received Iraqis in their homes while others are donating food and clothes.

The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as infidels, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of members of a religious minority group under attack by Islamic extremists have fled across the border from Iraq to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria, said two Kurdish officials and an activist on Saturday.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said thousands of people have fled from Iraq into Syria but had no exact number.

The U.S. has launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop near the Syria border for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking minority practicing an ancient pre-Islamic religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

Mohammed, a spokesman for the local administration in the Syrian city of Qamishli, said there are currently about 7,000 people in Norouz Camp, which has about 300 tents, as well as thousands others who have arrived in other parts of the region.

“We are doing all we can to bring them to Rojava,” Mohammed said giving the name used by Kurds to refer to a predominantly Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. “People are dying on the way.”

He added that some women have lost their children on the way because of exhaustion and fear. Talking about Yazidis who were able to make it into Syria he said they are arriving “in miserable conditions. They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind.”

“If we don’t help those people they will be subjected to genocide,” said Mohammed referring to the people who are still in Iraq.

Mohammed said more than 20,000 Yazidis are on their way to Syria through the safe route but they and Kurdish fighters are coming under attack by Islamic State group fighters. He said that so far nine Kurdish fighters have been killed since Friday between Iraq and Syria while protecting the fleeing Yazidis.

Hasso, an official at administration of the Syrian Kurdish region known as Jazeera, said Kurdish fighters with the People’s Protection Units were able to open the safe route Thursday night after intense clashes with the Islamic State that left dozens dead or wounded. He said the majority of Iraqis arriving are Yazidis in addition to a smaller numbers of Christians.

The units are dominated by members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, Syria’s most powerful Kurdish group, affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish movement PKK, which long fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Members of the units have been fighting against jihadis in northern Syria since last year and have been able to force them out of predominantly Kurdish areas. The oil-rich northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh has its own Christians and Yazidis populations.

“Our (local) government is on alert and we call upon international relief agencies to come here and help us. We need tents, blankets and food,” said Hasso by telephone from the Norouz camp. He added that three other camps are also receiving Iraqis who are fleeing.

“The conditions are catastrophic here and our capabilities are very modest,” Hasso said adding that some Syrians have received Iraqis in their homes while others are donating food and clothes.

The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as infidels, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of members of a religious minority group under attack by Islamic extremists have fled across the border from Iraq to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria, said two Kurdish officials and an activist on Saturday.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said thousands of people have fled from Iraq into Syria but had no exact number.

The U.S. has launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop near the Syria border for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking minority practicing an ancient pre-Islamic religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

Mohammed, a spokesman for the local administration in the Syrian city of Qamishli, said there are currently about 7,000 people in Norouz Camp, which has about 300 tents, as well as thousands others who have arrived in other parts of the region.

“We are doing all we can to bring them to Rojava,” Mohammed said giving the name used by Kurds to refer to a predominantly Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. “People are dying on the way.”

He added that some women have lost their children on the way because of exhaustion and fear. Talking about Yazidis who were able to make it into Syria he said they are arriving “in miserable conditions. They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind.”

“If we don’t help those people they will be subjected to genocide,” said Mohammed referring to the people who are still in Iraq.

Mohammed said more than 20,000 Yazidis are on their way to Syria through the safe route but they and Kurdish fighters are coming under attack by Islamic State group fighters. He said that so far nine Kurdish fighters have been killed since Friday between Iraq and Syria while protecting the fleeing Yazidis.

Hasso, an official at administration of the Syrian Kurdish region known as Jazeera, said Kurdish fighters with the People’s Protection Units were able to open the safe route Thursday night after intense clashes with the Islamic State that left dozens dead or wounded. He said the majority of Iraqis arriving are Yazidis in addition to a smaller numbers of Christians.

The units are dominated by members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, Syria’s most powerful Kurdish group, affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish movement PKK, which long fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Members of the units have been fighting against jihadis in northern Syria since last year and have been able to force them out of predominantly Kurdish areas. The oil-rich northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh has its own Christians and Yazidis populations.

“Our (local) government is on alert and we call upon international relief agencies to come here and help us. We need tents, blankets and food,” said Hasso by telephone from the Norouz camp. He added that three other camps are also receiving Iraqis who are fleeing.

“The conditions are catastrophic here and our capabilities are very modest,” Hasso said adding that some Syrians have received Iraqis in their homes while others are donating food and clothes.

The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as infidels, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of members of a religious minority group under attack by Islamic extremists have fled across the border from Iraq to seek refuge with the Kurds of northeastern Syria, said two Kurdish officials and an activist on Saturday.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said thousands of people have fled from Iraq into Syria but had no exact number.

The U.S. has launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop near the Syria border for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking minority practicing an ancient pre-Islamic religion with links to Zoroastrianism.

Mohammed, a spokesman for the local administration in the Syrian city of Qamishli, said there are currently about 7,000 people in Norouz Camp, which has about 300 tents, as well as thousands others who have arrived in other parts of the region.

“We are doing all we can to bring them to Rojava,” Mohammed said giving the name used by Kurds to refer to a predominantly Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. “People are dying on the way.”

He added that some women have lost their children on the way because of exhaustion and fear. Talking about Yazidis who were able to make it into Syria he said they are arriving “in miserable conditions. They are barefoot, tired and left everything behind.”

“If we don’t help those people they will be subjected to genocide,” said Mohammed referring to the people who are still in Iraq.

Mohammed said more than 20,000 Yazidis are on their way to Syria through the safe route but they and Kurdish fighters are coming under attack by Islamic State group fighters. He said that so far nine Kurdish fighters have been killed since Friday between Iraq and Syria while protecting the fleeing Yazidis.

Hasso, an official at administration of the Syrian Kurdish region known as Jazeera, said Kurdish fighters with the People’s Protection Units were able to open the safe route Thursday night after intense clashes with the Islamic State that left dozens dead or wounded. He said the majority of Iraqis arriving are Yazidis in addition to a smaller numbers of Christians.

The units are dominated by members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, Syria’s most powerful Kurdish group, affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish movement PKK, which long fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Members of the units have been fighting against jihadis in northern Syria since last year and have been able to force them out of predominantly Kurdish areas. The oil-rich northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh has its own Christians and Yazidis populations.

“Our (local) government is on alert and we call upon international relief agencies to come here and help us. We need tents, blankets and food,” said Hasso by telephone from the Norouz camp. He added that three other camps are also receiving Iraqis who are fleeing.

“The conditions are catastrophic here and our capabilities are very modest,” Hasso said adding that some Syrians have received Iraqis in their homes while others are donating food and clothes.

The Yazidis practice an ancient religion that the Sunni Muslim radicals consider heretical. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as infidels, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax.

Thousands from Iraq minority flee to Syria

KDWN

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian Kurdish officials say thousands of members of a religious minority group have fled across the border from Iraq after coming under attack by Islamic extremists.

Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press on Saturday that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the Islamic State group.

Their comments came as the U.S. launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop for days by the militants.

The extremists have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.