US drones rout jihadists amid fresh reports of Isis barbarity
The brutality being meted out on Iraq's Yazidi minority by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) is said to have included burying women and children alive, as Washington unleashed further air strikes to try to halt the jihadist advance.
A government minister in Baghdad said "striking evidence" had been obtained that at least 500 Yazidis were murdered in recent days and hundreds of women enslaved. Iraqi Kurdish leaders struggling to repel forces from Isis, who now call themselves the Islamic State, have appealed for direct military aid.
Downing Street said yesterday it was stepping up aid drops after the first successful delivery by the RAF over Mount Sinjar, where up to 150,000 Yazidis are thought to have fled, as well as increasing the number of British humanitarian advisers in Irbil, the Kurdish capital.
The Pentagon announced it had conducted a fourth round of attacks in support of Kurdish Peshmerga forces who have been battling to contain Isis forces. The militants had pushed to within just 30 minutes' drive south of Irbil.
Kurdish fighters last night claimed to have retaken a number of towns previously held by the extremist militants as a result of the American intervention. The strikes, conducted by US fighter jets and drones on four armed trucks and a mortar position, came as the Kurdish President, Masoud Barzani, asked the international community to provide his forces with weapons to counter the Isis forces. The US also said last night that it had moved some staff from its consulate in Irbil due to the security situation.
Admitting his forces were outgunned by Isis fighters who have seized oil installations and equipment abandoned by the US-trained Iraqi army, Mr Barzani said: "We are not fighting a terrorist organisation, we are fighting a terrorist state."
US President Barack Obama warned this weekend there was no quick fix to the problems posed by Isis, whose dramatic surge across a swathe of Iraq since declaring an Islamic caliphate in June has forced Washington's first military intervention in the country for three years.
Better organised and more hardline than al-Qaida, the militants have swept into new areas in the last week, reportedly beheading and crucifying captives including Yazidis and Christians if they refuse to convert to their brand of Islam.
Iraqi Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani yesterday said the Isis attacks had reached new levels of depravity as they continue to pursue the Yazidis, who they regard as "devil worshippers".
Mr Sudani said accounts of the Isis assault on the town of Sinjar, the ancient home of the Yazidis, included testimony of how militants celebrated a massacre of hundreds of civilians with cheers and waving guns in the air.
"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 State have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar," he said.
"Some of the victims, including women and children, were buried alive in scattered mass graves."
Mr Sudani added: "In some of the images we have obtained there are lines of dead Yazidis who have been shot in the head while the Islamic State fighters cheer and wave their weapons over the corpses.
"This is a vicious atrocity."