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IS releases 200 captive Yazidis

The Islamic State group has released at least 200 Yazidis after five months of captivity in Iraq, mostly elderly prisoners who may have been slowing the extremists down.

Peshmerga Gen Shirko Fatih, commander of Kurdish forces in the northern city of Kirkuk, said almost all of the freed prisoners are in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect. Three young children are among them.

The militants transported the captives from the northern town of Tal Afar, where they were being held for the past five months after the militants raided their towns last summer, and dropped them off at the Khazer Bridge, near the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.

Gen Fatih said they are now being held by Kurdish authorities for questioning.

He said it appears the militants released the prisoners because they were too much of a burden.

"It probably became too expensive to feed them and care for them," he said.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled in August when the Islamic State group captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. But hundreds were taken captive by the group, particularly women. Iraqi and international authorities later said that some Yazidi women were sold into slavery.

About 50,000 Yazidis - half of them children, according to United Nations figures - fled to the mountains outside Sinjar during the onslaught. Some still remain there.

The Sunni militants of the Islamic State group view Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as apostates, and have demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax. The Islamic State group currently holds a third of both Iraq and Syria and is being targeted by US-led air strikes.

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