Yezidi refugees in Viranşehir camp, southern Turkey. File photo: ARA News
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QAMISHLI – Radicals of the Islamic State (ISIS) released 19 Yezidi hostages who had been abducted during the group’s major attack on the district of Shingal in northern Iraq, Kurdish officials confirmed on Monday.
“The hostages were held by the terror group in the Syrian ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa. They arrived in the Region earlier this week,” said Hussein Qaedi, head of the abductees affairs office in the city of Duhok, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The Kurdish official pointed out that the majority of the released hostages were children and women, while there remained thousands of Yezidis in the group’s prisons.
Speaking to ARA News, Rotik Shemmo, a displaced Yezidi based in Tirbespi northeast Syria, said that everyone disappointed the Yezidis during the ISIS-led offensive on Shingal.
“If there was a force deterring terrorists, they wouldn’t have been able to kill hundreds and abduct thousands of our [Yezidi] people,” he said.
“We are highly concerned about the fate of the remaining abductees. We are afraid that ISIS terrorists would execute them,” a Yezidi rights activist told ARA News, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“ISIS took advantage of the security vacuum around the Sinjar mountain, which enabled the barbaric group enter the region, killing, abducting and displacing thousands, including women and children,” he stressed.
In August 2014, ISIS extremists had taken control of Shingal, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people to Duhok and Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of Yezidis remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape.
Subsequent to the liberation of the area at the hands of the Kurdish forces last November, thousands of Yezidi civilians returned home.
The return of the displaced Yezidi families followed intensive operations by the Peshmerga to dismantle land-mines and explosive devices left by ISIS militant fighters before their withdrawal from Shingal in November.
However, Yezidi civilians remain concerned about their safety, especially after witnessing several infiltration attempts by ISIS militants into Shingal over the past four months.
Also, after ISIS departure, the Kurdish forces have discovered several mass graves in Shingal. Most of the victims were women and children from the Yezidi minority. Specialized teams, that have been inspecting traces of the people disappeared during the group’s rule over the Yezidi-populated region, have so far discovered five mass graves belonging to Yezidi civilians, according to human rights activists and Peshmerga officials who spoke to ARA News.
Reporting by: Mir Yaqoob
Source: ARA News