Islamic State frees around 350 Yazidi captives in Iraq’s north  

KIRKUK, Iraq, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Islamic State freed around 350 members of Iraq‘s Yazidi minority on Saturday, delivering them to safety in the country’s Kurdish north.

Almost all those released were elderly, disabled, or unwell, and included several infants with serious illnesses, according to a Reuters reporter who saw them arrive in the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk.

Islamic State militants attacked Yazidis in northwest Iraq last summer, killing or capturing and enslaving thousands of the minority group.

Those who could fled to the autonomous Kurdistan region, where many are living in camps along with other religious and ethnic minorities as well as Sunni Muslims displaced by the Islamist militants.

One of the freed Yazidis, who was in his 70s, said Islamic State fighters had ordered them to get into buses on Saturday, and they feared they were going to be executed.A displaced child from minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to Islamic State in Sinjar town, carries bottle of water as he makes his way to Syrian border, on outskirts of Sinjar mountain

Instead, they were driven to the Islamic State-controlled Shirqat area, where they spent the night, and from there to Hawija at the southwestern entrance of Kirkuk.

Kurdish peshmerga forces drove back Islamic State militants in northwestern Iraq last month, breaking a long siege of Sinjar mountain where thousands of Yazidis had been stranded for months. But many Yazidi villages remain under IS control.

Yazidi beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Islamic State fighters say the Yazidi must embrace their radical version of Islam or die.

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