ISIS frees over 200 Yazidis in Iraq: Kurdish officer

KIRKUK (AFP) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has freed more than 200 members of Iraq's Yazidi minority it held captive for months, a commander in the Kurdish peshmerga security forces said Wednesday.

"We have received 227 Yazidis, among them women and children" in the northern province of Kirkuk Wednesday, Major General Westa Rasul told AFP.

"We negotiated for days with tribal sheikhs in Hawijah and were able to free the kidnapped Yazidis," Rasul said, referring to an ISIS-controlled town in Kirkuk.

The Yazidis were actually freed Monday in Nineveh province, northwest of Kirkuk, but did not make their way to a Kurdish-controlled territory until two days later, he said.

The mass release of the Yazidis, kidnapped in Nineveh last year, is the second of its kind, after some 200 mainly elderly people were set free in January.

A sweeping ISIS offensive overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June. A second drive in August targeted areas in the north that were home to many of Iraq's minorities.

The Yazidis, who are neither Muslims nor Arabs, practice a unique faith and are considered infidels by the extremists. They were hit harder than others.

They looked in danger of being wiped out of their ancestral land until a US-led air campaign turned the tide on ISIS advances in northern Iraq.

The UN has said the ISIS campaign of killings, abductions and rape against Yazidis may amount to genocide.

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