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Desperate Iraqi Minorities Flee ISIS Attacks

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Much of Iraq is now in chaos, and fighters from the the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are fueling the instability, attacking towns at will and making large gains in territory. Last week, ISIS militants swarmed into several minority villages in northern Iraq, prompting tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee for their lives during their push toward the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil. Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters that IS militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive. U.S. warplanes bombed ISIS fighters and weapons on Friday after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent "genocide." At least 20,000 civilians who had been besieged by jihadists on Sinjar mountain have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. Thousands more are still feared to be trapped in the region, forced to choose between starvation and dehydration, or a descent down the mountains toward armed militants. [36 photos]

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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, ride a donkey as they make their way towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh, on August 10, 2014. Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters on Sunday. (Reuters/Rodi Said)
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, ride a donkey as they make their way towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh, on August 10, 2014. Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters on Sunday. (Reuters/Rodi Said)
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect flee from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walking towards the Syrian border on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain on August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
Smoke rises during clashes between Kurdish peshmerga troops and militants of the Islamic State on the outskirts of Sinjar, west of Mosul, Iraq, on August 5, 2014. Tens of thousands fled the weekend assault on Sinjar, after the Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces who had held towns in the area for years. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Kurdish peshmerga troops participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants on the front line in Khazer on August 8, 2014. (Reuters/Azad Lashkari) #
Refugee children from the minority Yazidi sect make their way towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, on August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
Displaced members of the Yazidi sect climb on a truck as they make their way towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, on August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect ride in the dusty trunk of a car as they make their way towards the Syrian border on August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
Displaced members of the Yazidi sect, fleeing Islamic State forces in Sinjar town, ride a truck as they make their way towards the Syrian border, on August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community cross the Iraq-Syria border at Fishkhabur bridge over the Tigris River in northern Iraq on August 10, 2014. Kurdish authorities at the border believe some 45,000 Yazidis passed the river crossing in the past week and thousands more are still stranded in the mountains. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community cross the Iraqi-Syrian border along the Fishkhabur bridge over the Tigris River on August 11, 2014. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. and Kurdish flags flutter in the wind while displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community cross the Syria-Iraq border at Fishkhabur bridge over the Tigris River on August 10, 2014. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed) #
Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) help displaced people from the Yazidi sect as they make their way towards the Syrian border on August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
Displaced people from the Yazidi sect get help from a member of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain on August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
A member of the Kurdish peshmerga forces sit on a weapon during an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Makhmur, on the outskirts of the province of Nineveh, on August 7, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Yazidi Iraqi fighters walk past the grave of a child who died of malnutrition at a cemetery in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, where Yazidi families took refuge after they fled the Mount Sinjar area on August 10, 2014. Thousands of Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority following an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism, fled their homes a week ago when Islamic State militants attacked the town of Sinjar. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Iraqi Yazidi fighter stands guard outside a shrine on August 10, 2014 in Sheikhan, northeast of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq and near the Kurdish city of Dohuk where Yazidis found refuge. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images) #
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand guard during airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants near the Khazer checkpoint outside of the city of Arbil in northern Iraq, on August 8, 2014. The Iraqi Air Force has been carrying out strikes against the militants, and for the first time on Friday, U.S. war planes also directly targeted the group, which controls large areas of Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
Peshmerga forces hand out water bottles to displaced Iraqi families from the Yazidi community as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11, 2014. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter poses for a picture on the front line in Makhmur, about 280 kilometers (175 miles) north of the capital Baghdad, during clashes with Islamic State militants on August 9, 2014. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Leavindofske, 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron ramp team chief and Senior Airman David Babcock, air transportation journeyman, assist with loading bundles of halal meals on to a C-17 Globemaster III for a humanitarian airdrop mission over Iraq on August 9, 2014. The humanitarian aid includes bottled water and food which was delivered to displaced citizens in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. (Reuters/Vernon Young Jr./U.S. Air Force) #
Pallets of bottled water loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq on August 8, 2014. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr) #
Tech. Sgt. Lynn Morelly, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, watches bundles of halal meals parachute to the ground during a humanitarian airdrop mission over Iraq on August 9, 2014. To date, in coordination with the government of Iraq, U.S. military aircraft have delivered more than 52,000 meals and more than 10,600 gallons of fresh drinking water, providing much-needed aid to the displaced Yazidis, who urgently require emergency assistance according to the U.S. Department of Defense. (Reuters/Vernon Young Jr./U.S. Air Force) #
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community gather for humanitarian aid at the Syria-Iraq border at Fishkhabur border point, northern Iraq, on August 10, 2014. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed) #
Displaced families from the minority Yazidi sect walk on the outskirts of Sinjar, west of Mosul, on August 5, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community cross the Iraq-Syria border at Fishkhabur bridge over the Tigris River on August 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
In this Sunday, August 10, 2014, displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community settle at a camp at Derike, Syria. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
A displaced Iraqi girl from the Yazidi community holds a piece of bread after crossing the Iraqi-Syrian border on August 11, 2014. At least 20,000 civilians, most of whom are from the Yazidi community, who had been besieged by jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images) #
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga troops watch as smoke billows from the town of Makhmur during clashes with Islamic State militants on August 9, 2014. (Reuters/Azad Lashkari) #
In the IS-captured, formerly Christian village of Bartella, in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants and tribal fighters take down Kurdish flags from the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party on August 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo) #
Islamic State militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that belonged to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Arbil, northern Iraq, on August 7, 2014. (AP Photo) #
Relatives mourn the death of a fighter of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), who was killed during clashes with Islamic State fighters in the Iraqi city of Rabia on the Iraqi-Syrian border, during his funeral in Ras al-Ain city in Syria's Hasakah province on August 6, 2014. Kurdish forces attacked Islamic State fighters near the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil in northern Iraq on Wednesday in a change of tactics supported by the Iraqi central government to try to break the Islamists' momentum. (Reuters/Rodi Said) #
Kurdish Peshmerga troops participate in a security deployment against Islamic State militants in a village on the outskirts of the province of Nineveh near the border province of Dohuk, on August 9, 2014. (Reuters/Ari Jalal) #
Female members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) take position on the front line in Makhmur, some 50 km south of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq where clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants are ongoing, on August 9, 2014. Makhmur, is one of the areas that had been attacked by jihadist fighters in recent days. After a first day of US air raids on fighters who had moved within striking distance of Kurdistan, a top official in the autonomous region said the time had come for a fightback. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Kurdish resident holds a signs during a demonstration in support of the Peshmerga troops in front of the U.S. consulate in Arbil, north of Baghdad, Iraq, on August 11, 2014. (Reuters/Azad Lashkari) #
Iraqi Christians, who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqosh, pose at a church building in Arbil, north of Baghdad, on August 11, 2014. Iraqi Christian families sought sanctuary in the church after fleeing towns and villages to escape the advance of Islamic State militants. (Reuters/Youssef Boudlal) #
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take position on the front line in Makhmur, about 280 kilometers (175 miles) north of Baghdad, during clashes with Islamic State militants on August 9, 2014. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images) #

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