Iraqi helicopter crashes giving aid
Published 12/08/2014 | 04:50
A Russian-built Iraqi military helicopter providing aid to people stranded on a mountain fleeing Islamic militants has crashed and killed the pilot after too many tried to climb aboard.
Iraqi parliamentarian Vian Dakheel, of the minority Yazidi community most affected by the fighting, was aboard the Mi-17 helicopter and was injured in the crash. She and others on board were evacuated to a hospital in the nearby Kurdish autonomous region.
The New York Times reported on its website that reporter Alissa J Rubin, riding along on the helicopter for a story, suffered an apparent concussion and broken wrists in the crash. Photographer Adam Ferguson was also on board but uninjured.
"The helicopter delivered aid to the people stranded in Sinjar and too many people boarded it and it hit the mountain during take-off," said an Iraqi military statement.
Sunni militants from the Islamic State group took the town of Sinjar in a remote region of Iraq near the Syrian border and gave the local Yazidi minority population an ultimatum to convert to Islam or die.
The Yazidis, a 500,000 strong people, follow an ancient religion with links to Zoroastrianism but are seen as infidels by the radical Islamists.
Tens of thousands fled to the remote and arid Sinjar mountains where they suffered from lack of food and water, prompting Iraq, the US and other nations to airlift them food and water.
Iraqi military helicopters have attempted to ferry out a few of the displaced but most have been slowly making their way to the protection of the Kurdish autonomous region.
Dakheel, the sole politician from the Yazidi community, made an impassioned plea in parliament to save her people before leaving for the north.