REUTERS - The spokesman for Iraq's human rights ministry says hundreds of women from the Yazidi religious minority have been taken captive by militants from the Islamic State group.
Kamil Amin says the women are below the age of 35 and some are being held in schools in Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. He said the ministry learned of the captives from their families.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled when the Islamic State group earlier this month captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. Amin's comments were the first Iraqi government confirmation that some women were being held by the group.
The U.S. has confirmed that the Islamic State group has kidnapped and imprisoned Yazidi women so that they can be sold or married off to extremist fighters, said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information came from classified intelligence reports. There was no solid estimate of the number of women victimized, the official said.
The International Rescue Committee said on Friday that they are currently "providing emergency medical care for some 4,000 dehydrated Yazidis, mostly women and children, who have survived for up to six days without food or water."
The Yazidis arrived at the Newrooz refugee camp in northeast Syria Thursday evening.
Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the president of the Kurdistan region, confirmed on Friday that Islamic State militants had seized control of Iraq's biggest dam in their latest offensive in the north of the country.
Control of Mosul dam could give the Sunni Islamists the ability to flood cities and cut off vital water and electricity supplies.
Hoshiyar Zebari, a senior Kurdish official, said on Friday that Islamic State fighters are planning a major attack on the Kurds and pose an existential threat to the ethnic group.
"The Islamic State is mobilizing all its forces in Iraq and Syria to come and fight the peshmerga. The fight is very serious. It is existential," Hoshiyar Zebari told a press conference.
U.S. warplanes bombed Islamist fighters marching on Iraq's Kurdish capital on Friday after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent "genocide."
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