Extremists accused of war crimes
An international rights group has accused the extremist Islamic State (IS) group of carrying out a systematic campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in northern Iraq that includes mass killings, abductions and other war crimes.
In a new report, Amnesty International said militants have abducted "hundreds, if not thousands" of women and children who belong to the ancient Yazidi faith. The extremists also have rounded up Yazidi men and boys before killing them, the London-based group said.
The 26-page report adds to a growing body of evidence outlining the scope and extent of the IS's crimes since it began its sweep from Syria across neighbouring Iraq in June. The militants have since seized much of northern and western Iraq, and have stretched as far as the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
The United Nations' top human rights body approved a request by Iraq to open an investigation into alleged crimes committed by the IS against civilians. Its aim is to provide the Human Rights Council with a report and evidence that could shed further light on Iraqi atrocities and be used as part of any international war crimes prosecution.
In its report, Amnesty detailed how IS fighters expelled Christians, Shiites, Yazidis and others from their homes. It documented several cases where the militants rounded up Yazidi men and boys and killed them in groups after overrunning their ancestral lands in Iraq's far north.
The report also said the group had abducted of hundreds of Yazidi women and children, most of whom were still missing.
"The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq," said Amnesty investigator Donatella Rovera.
Two of the deadliest killings occurred in early August after the IS fighters overran the Sinjar mountains area.
It was also unclear how many men and boys were killed. The Amnesty report said in two mass killings, "hundreds" of men were likely shot to death.
Yazidi lawmaker, Mahma Khalil, called on the Iraqi government and international community to urgently help the Yazidis who are still facing "continuing atrocities" by the extremist militants.
"They have been trying hard to force us to abandon our religion. We reject that because we are the oldest faith in Iraq, that has roots in Mesopotamia," Mr Khalil said.