News / Middle East

Iraqi Militants Take Over Christian Town

Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqosh, about 30 km east of the northern province of Nineveh, Aug. 7, 2014.
Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqosh, about 30 km east of the northern province of Nineveh, Aug. 7, 2014.
Edward Yeranian

The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting on Iraq, where Islamic extremists seized more northern territory Thursday.

The United States is also working to send humanitarian assistance to the war zone, but senior officials say no American military action in Iraq is under consideration.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the latest fighting, in which militants from the group known as the Islamic State (formerly ISIL) captured Iraq's largest dam, a crucial source of water and electricity for millions of people in and around Mosul.

The militants also overran several predominantly Christian towns in the north.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The dam provides crucial water and electricity to millions of residents in the main northern city of Mosul.  The militants overran Mosul on June 10. Kurdish forces in northern Iraq claim they still control the facility.

At the White House Thursday, President Barack Obama met with his national-security team about the growing Iraq crisis.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Islamic fighters in northern Iraq have displayed a "callous disregard" for human rights.

Little warning

The overnight advance caught many Christian families by surprise, driving them from their homes with little warning and little chance to gather possessions.

Pope Francis appealed to the international community to help end the "humanitarian tragedy" in the country.

As Islamic State militants grabbed control of areas that had been under the protection of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the Kurdistan Regional Government appealed for support in its efforts to counter the extremists.

"It is now time for the international community to step forward, urgently, and provide the KRG with humanitarian assistance and military support, particularly air support," Kurdish Minister Falah Mustafa said on the KRG's website.

Islamic State

Islamic State militants stand guard after controlling a checkpoint in Khazer at the border area of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region, Aug. 7, 2014.Islamic State militants stand guard after controlling a checkpoint in Khazer at the border area of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region, Aug. 7, 2014.
Islamic State militants stand guard after controlling a checkpoint in Khazer at the border area of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region, Aug. 7, 2014.
Islamic State militants stand guard after controlling a checkpoint in Khazer at the border area of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region, Aug. 7, 2014.

Known as the Islamic State, the Sunni extremists have already taken over large swathes of territory in northwestern Iraq and neighboring Syria. The group has imposed a strict form of Islamic law in the area, enforced through beheadings, amputations and crucifixions.

Considered more extremist than al-Qaida, the Islamic State has also threatened to capture the capital, Baghdad.

Witnesses said Islamic militants carried out an overnight offensive near the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, seizing several towns, including Qaraqosh and Tal Kayf, which have large Christian populations.

They also have captured two oilfields near the Syrian and Turkish borders.

Chaldean Archbishop Joseph Thomas told the French news agency AFP that “tens of thousands of terrified (Christians) are being displaced as we speak, it cannot be described.”

He added that their towns had been “emptied of their original residents and were now under the control of (IS) militants.” He called on the U.N. Security Council to “intervene immediately.”

Hundreds feared dead

Amnesty International said access is impossible to areas under IS control, and in surrounding areas where fighting with Kurdish forces is  ongoing.

Amnesty also reported that hundreds of civilians from Sinjar are feared feared dead or abducted after they were attacked by IS militants.

Jabber Yawar, the head of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, insisted that the Islamic State's attack caught his men by surprise because it took place in a lightly defended area.

Yawar said it is well known that the area around Sinjar and Zumar are geographically wide expanses that are not well defended and have relatively few Peshmerga fighters for the lands they are defending.

He said that before the June retreat of Iraqi government forces from Mosul, Peshmerga fighters jointly patrolled 1,000 kilometers of territory with them.

Yawar added that cooperation with the Iraqi military had resumed within the past few days after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offered air cover to Kurdish fighters.

He noted that conditions were desperate for thousands of Yazidi refugees stranded in the Sinjar Mountains since Sunday.

A female Iraqi lawmaker from Kurdistan broke down and began sobbing on the floor of parliament, urging the body to intervene to help thousands of Yazidi refugees who fled to the Sinjar Mountains over the weekend and were in need of food, water and shelter.

Meanwhile, as the Iraqi parliament met Thursday to discuss who should be country's next prime minister, lawmakers quarreled over parliamentary procedure and the use of mobile phones inside the chamber.

Outgoing Prime Minister Maliki insisted in his weekly television address Wednesday that parliament “must follow the constitution” and reappoint him to the post, or it would “open the gates of Hell,” and allow “foreign states to intervene in Iraq.”

Top Shi'ite religious leaders and members of Maliki's own political bloc are urging him to step aside.

Baghdad suicide bombing

Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014.Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014.
Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014.
Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014.

A suicide bomber driving a car killed 14 people in a Shi'ite area of Baghdad on Thursday, police and medical sources said.

The attack came while Islamic State Sunni militants pressed ahead with an offensive in northern Iraq that routed Kurdish forces and alarmed the Baghdad government and regional powers.

The group has previously claimed responsibility for bombings in Baghdad.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Luther from: USA
August 08, 2014 4:58 AM
Why the world is simply looking at the way ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is killing innocent Christians in Iraq? President Obama, I beg you help those innocent people and kill all those ISIS.

by: Randy Horton
August 07, 2014 10:53 PM
Before we arrived, Iraq's Christian community was small but flourishing and enjoyed a large measure of religious freedom under Sunni Muslim Saddam Hussein. After we left, Iraq's Christian community had fled the country, been murdered or was suffering intense religious persecution. An unforeseen consequence of the U.S. invasion was the destruction of Iraq's Christian community by the Shiite Muslim majority.

by: eusebiomanuel vestias from: Portugal
August 07, 2014 12:49 PM
save the population civil the Iraq international community

by: Prophet from: Hell
August 07, 2014 8:22 AM
look, if you think the Kurds can stop ISIL you live in dream world. In the Islamic world Kurds are considered less than cockroaches. The only force in the ME that can stop Global Jihad is Israel, but even Israel is being betrayed by the treachery of the "West" and so is isolated and vulnerable, Lebanon and Jordan are the next easy targets for destruction. Lebanon is not a nation even; the "West" has been allowing Hezbollah to consume Lebanon from within and reduce it to a corrupt Iranian shell... Lebanon is just like Iraq; Jordan has always been a cruel and brutal and corrupt monarchy of treachery and deceit that the "West" has been trying to prop up... it will not last long. Jihadis have established a strong presence as UN "refugees" in Jordan... its only a matter of time now. Do not undermine the role of the corrupt UN in promoting Global Jihad in the world especially in Europe.

Also don't think that Qatar and Turkey will be immune from the depredations of what they have created - Hamas-ISIL-Nusra - its all the same - call it Global Jihad. lastly, the Iranians are considered to be even less than the Kurds - there will be no mercy for Iran or their Hezbollah.
In Response

by: Ali baba from: new york
August 07, 2014 10:11 AM
You are wrong. ISIL can be defeated easily . Syria can get rid of them. the problem in Syria that west do not like Bashar el Assad and weapons has be given to Jihadist . the fact they are punch of thugs and use torture and mass killing to scare their enemy. sooner or later they will be defeated . even the Kurds which you believe they are weak can inflict serious damage to them

by: meanbill from: USA
August 07, 2014 7:58 AM
THE GREATEST LIE ever told, or the "dumbest" statement ever made?..... US President Obama "quote" said it;... "Al-Qaeda is on the run, and their leadership is decimated."

The whole Islamic world is erupting in chaos, violence, destruction, killings and wars, because of American interference in the politics of the Islamic countries, (and guess who is the leader of America is now), who hasn't a clue on what the hell is going on?..... The US President Obama who naively "quote" said, "Bin Laden is dead, and the world is a safer place".... (is Obama's world, Disney Land?).

by: Tashdique ahmed from: london
August 07, 2014 7:46 AM
Let me first say that i do not agree with the policy of killing the prisoners of war who has already surrender.In Holy koran says that if the enimy surrenders then escort him to a place of security.In time of the prophet Mohammad there was a tax for the non beliefers with that their secutity was garanteed by the state.that tax was less then they paid to their own previous corrupt rulars.Now i see in western media they are saying that convert pay tax or leave .since force conversion is banned in islam ,im sure ISIS is not saying that ,what they maybe saying is if they willingly converts they dont have to pay tax otherwise they have to pay a small tax which will give them complete protection and if they do nither they have to leave but the media here knowingly lying to readers by saying they have to convert AND pay tax just to create an anti ISIS feelings and regarding christians they are leaving because it is a chance for them to go and live in europe or america get all kind of sympathy and benifits which they would not have been able to do before.
In Response

by: Mery-Ann Rees from: UK
August 07, 2014 11:42 AM
hey stupid Ahmed, does this sound like "reason" to you..?? i used to be very liberal and against US/Israel but the more i learn about your Islamic filth and corruption and moral decay the more i see the wisdom in the US/Israel answer to your islamic depravity.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs