The self-declared Islamic State has released a group of some 200 elderly members of the Yazidis religious minority, allowing them to cross out of territory controlled by the extremists.
It is not clear why the militants released the men and women, many infirm, but The Associated Press quotes Gen, Shirko Fatih, the commander of the Kurdish peshmerga in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk as saying “It probably became too expensive to feed them and care for them.”
As you might recall, the Yazidis have been a frequent target of the extremist group, who views the religious minority as apostates. In August, tens of thousands of Yazidis fled when ISIS militants captured the town of Sinjar near the Syrian border, but hundreds of others were captured by the extremists, and some forced into slavery, according to human rights groups.
The Guardian says: “The militants transported the captives from the northern town of Tal Afar, where they had been held for the past five months after the militants raided their towns last summer. The militants dropped them off on Saturday at the Khazer bridge, near the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, Fatih said. They were being held on Sunday by Kurdish authorities for questioning, he said.”
The AP reports that “[almost] all of the freed prisoners are in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect. Three were young children. The former captives were being questioned and receiving medical treatment on Sunday in the town of Alton Kupri.”
In a statement quoted by Al-Jazeera, peshmerga member Sihamee Omar said most of the Yazidis were more than 50 years of age and that they were transferred in a convoy.
Khodr Domli, a leading Yazidi rights activist at a health center where the refugees were taken, tells Agence France-Presse: “Some are wounded, some have disabilities and many are suffering from mental and psychological problems.”
“These men and women had been held in Mosul,” he said.