Western diplomacy and aid efforts are shaping up in Iraq to avert what US President Barack Obama warned could be an impending “genocide” against civilians besieged on a mountain in the country’s north by the Islamic State group fighters.
US fighter jets on Sunday continued to strike positions belonging to the self-declared jihadists whose attack on Sinjar Mountain last week sent thousands – many of them from the Yazidi minority – scurrying into a nearby mountain.
Those stranded on Sinjar Mountain in searing summer heat are left with little food and water.
US and Iraqi cargo planes have been air dropping food and water over the region, a barren 60-kilometre ridge. The UK joined the effort overnight.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived in Iraq on Sunday, where he is due to oversee the first delivery of French aid for displaced people.
Fabius urged Iraq’s bickering leaders to form an inclusive government capable of countering Islamic State fighters advancing through the north of the country.
“Iraq is in need of a wide unity government, and all Iraqis should feel that they are represented in this government, and all Iraqis should feel they are represented to take part in this battle against terrorism,” Fabius told a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Kurdish military sources have told Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf in Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil that the village of Ghwar and Makhmour, which lie in 40km south of Erbil, have been retaken by Peshmerga forces. The development came after another round of US airstrikes there earlier on Sunday.
Ghwar is important because of its access to Erbil, while Makhmour is strategic because access to Kirkuk runs through it.
The US aerial assault aims to allow the federal and Kurdish governments to claw back areas lost in the conflict.
On Sunday, Iraq’s human rights minister said the Islamic State group has killed at least 500 members of the Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive.
Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said fighters had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. About 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.
Federal Iraqi forces completely folded when the Islamic State fighters, who already control a large swathe of Syria, swept in from the northeast two months ago, took the second largest city, Mosul, and advanced into much of the country’s Sunni heartland.
The cash-strapped autonomous Kurdish region’s Peshmerga force has also struggled to roll back the losses.
Obama did not give a timetable for the US military intervention but said on Saturday that Iraq’s problems would not be solved in weeks. “This is going to be a long-term project,” he said.
The US president ruled out the deployment of American combat troops to fight in Iraq. Agencies