Syria Kurds return 25 Yazidis freed from IS to Iraq

Syrian Kurds repatriated 25 women and children from Iraq’s Yazidi minority after freeing them during the final push against Daesh. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019
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Syria Kurds return 25 Yazidis freed from IS to Iraq

QAZLAJOKH, Syria: Syrian Kurds on Saturday repatriated 25 women and children from Iraq’s Yazidi minority after freeing them during the final push against Daesh, a local official said.
The US-backed fighters say they rescued some 300 Yazidi women and children during the fight to take the militants’ last scrap of territory in eastern Syria.
“Today, we will hand over 25 people — 10 women and 15 children — to the Yazidi council in Sinjar,” said Ziyad Rustam, an official with the Kurdish-run group Yazidi House, which reunites rescued Yazidi children with surviving relatives.
“They will be sent to their families,” he told AFP.
At the Yazidi House headquarters in a village near the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, women wearing colorful robes collected children scampering around the compound before boarding busses bound for Sinjar, the Yazidi heartland in Iraq.
“The fate of my three sisters remains unknown... I don’t know anything about them,” said 17-year-old Jamila Haidar.
“I hope we will be reunited soon.”
Iraq’s Yazidis are a symbol of the suffering caused by Daesh during its rein over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.
The militants stormed through Iraq’s northwest in 2014 slaughtering thousands of men and boys and abducting women and girls to be abused as sex slaves.
But they have since lost all of the once-sprawling cross-border “caliphate” to multiple offensive.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces last month announced the defeat of the Daesh proto-state after tens of thousands of people streamed out of the militants’ last patch of territory, around the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
Rustam said SDF had in total liberated 850 Yazidi women and children during its battles against Daesh since 2015.
But 3,040 Yazidis are still missing, he said, adding that the search for them was ongoing.
Rustam said the militants had “sold many of them to people inside Syria, in places like Idlib,” most of which is held by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Some of the Yazidis extracted from Daesh’s last sliver of territory are being held at the Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp, which also houses militant family members.


US demands Iran free seized ship, vows to protect Gulf oil lifeline

Updated 19 July 2019
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US demands Iran free seized ship, vows to protect Gulf oil lifeline

  • Washington blames Iran for a series of attacks on shipping since mid-May in the world’s most important oil artery

DUBAI: The US on Thursday demanded Iran immediately release a vessel it seized in the Gulf and a US military commander in the region said the US would work “aggressively” to ensure free passage of vessels through the vital waterway.

Responding to an announcement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that they had seized a foreign tanker smuggling fuel, the US State Department insisted Iran had to free the ship and its crew and stop harassing vessels in and around the Strait of Hormuz.

The US blames Iran for a series of attacks on shipping since mid-May in the world’s most important oil artery, accusations Tehran rejects but that have raised fears the long-time foes could stumble into war.

“The United States strongly condemns the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with safe passage in and around the Strait of Hormuz,” a State Department spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.

“Iran must cease this illicit activity and release the reportedly seized crew and vessel immediately.”

Refinitiv data showed that the last signal received from the vessel was on Sunday when it was in the Strait of Hormuz off the Iranian island of Qeshm, heading toward Oman from Larak Island.

It was reported on Wednesday that shipping companies were hiring unarmed security guards for voyages through the Gulf as an extra safeguard.

US Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, meanwhile, said Washington was talking to several countries about ensuring freedom of navigation in the Gulf and would work “aggressively” to find a solution to enable free passage. He was speaking in Riyadh at a news conference.

Also on Thursday, Britain urged Iran to ease tensions in the Gulf on Thursday and Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt told a defense conference Britain had “always, and we will continue, to protect shipping and the free flow of goods in that area.”