Wednesday 17 January 2018

UN condemns Iraq minorities attacks

An Islamic State fighter stands guard at the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Bartella (AP)
An Islamic State fighter stands guard at the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Bartella (AP)

An alarmed UN Security Council condemned attacks on minorities in Iraq as the Islamic State militant group expanded its grip on the northern part of the country.

The council said the attacks could constitute crimes against humanity and that those responsible should be held accountable. It also urged international support for the Iraqi government.

Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant read from the statement after an emergency consultation requested by France.

"The members of the Security Council also urge all parties to stop human rights violations and abuses and ensure humanitarian access and facilitate the delivery of assistance to those fleeing the violence," he said.

Britain holds the Security Council presidency this month.

Mr Lyall Grant said his country planned to circulate a draft resolution on Iraq that would include a "message of condemnation" and a request to put key Islamic State leaders on the al Qaida sanctions list.

The council briefing was disturbing and alarming, Mr Lyall Grant said.

"It's quite clear that (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has expanded its attacks very widely into Kurdish areas," he told reporters.

"There was deep alarm in the Security Council about the speed of events."

He said the immediate needs in Iraq are humanitarian but that it was still difficult to assess the scale of the crisis.

The meeting, requested by France, came after militants from the Islamic State group seized Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam.

That gave them control of enormous power and water resources and leverage over the Tigris River that runs through the heart of Baghdad.

The fighting has trapped tens of thousands of members of religious minorities on a mountaintop.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim was asked at a UN press conference how he thought authorities might help those people.

"Right now, the government has very limited resources to do that. It's unfortunate, and this is why this is a catastrophe," he said.

The Islamic State group seized large chunks of northern and western Iraq in a blitz offensive in June, including Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul.

The onslaught has pushed Iraq into its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of US troops.

"We stand ready to play a role," Alexis Lamek, deputy permanent representative of France to the UN, said.

"We are currently examining options and discussing with international partners."

The capture of Qaraqoush and at least four other nearby hamlets brings the militants to the very edge of Iraqi Kurdish territory and its regional capital, Irbil.

Witnesses say tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters have fled.

The French and others say it is the civilian population and the religious minorities that are the worst hit.

Press Association

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