Far fewer Yazidi refugees stranded on Iraq mountain than thought: US
Published on Aug 14, 2014 11:06 AM
DOHUK, Iraq (AFP) - The United States said its troops found "far fewer" Yazidi refugees marooned on a northern Iraqi mountain than expected, making an evacuation mission less likely, after air strikes pummeled besieging Islamic militants.
The UN refugee agency has said tens of thousands of civilians, many of them members of the Yazidi religious minority, remain trapped on Mount Sinjar by jihadists from the so-called Islamic State (IS), which has overrun large swathes of Iraq and Syria in a lightning and brutal offensive.
But the Pentagon said that - based on a firsthand assessment by a small party of US troops - the plight of those on the mountain was better than feared, and an evacuation mission "is far less likely". A US military official said the special forces soldiers had returned safely to base at Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said that the troops, which consisted of less than 20 personnel, did not engage in any combat. "The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mount Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the (Kurdish) Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days.
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