The United Nations said Monday the situation for thousands of Iraqis who have fled Islamic State terrorists in the north of the country is still dire, despite several thousand of them escaping their mountain refuge.
The U.N. said more than 650,000 people have been displaced since IS fighters captured the northern city of Mosul in June. The numbers have continued to grow as the group, seen as more extreme than al-Qaida, has captured more territory across parts of northern and western Iraq.
The situation is particularly grim for thousands of minority Yazidis who have fled to the northern Mount Sinjar, where they are suffering from sun and heat exposure and lack of food. They have fled there to escape Islamic State death threats if they do not convert to Islam.
Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. department of humanitarian affairs, told reporters by telephone from the Kurdish regional capital, Irbil, that emergency air drops of water and food are reaching people on the mountain.
Also, in the last 72 hours, thousands have reached safety off Mount Sinjar with the help of Kurdish security forces.
“When people get off the mountain they still have to get through some very difficult territory before they get into a safe zone. When they get off the mountain they are still potentially going to be confronted by armed groups,” Dwyer said.
She noted the United Nations also is extremely concerned about reports of Islamic State fighters abducting hundreds of women and girls they plan to sell.
“We are trying to work with the authorities in any way we can to bring pressure to bear to have those girls and women released," she said. "It is a desperate situation; it is very distressing for the local communities here.”
For its part, the U.N. Security Council is working on a draft resolution aimed at choking off funding to the Islamic State and suppressing the flow of foreign fighters into its ranks.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday welcomed movement toward formation of a new government in Iraq.
In a statement, his office said he is concerned the heightened political tensions combined with the security threat from the Islamic State could lead the country into even deeper crisis. And he urged the new prime minister-designate to form a new government in accordance with the constitutional time frame.